And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love.
A few weeks ago, Gary and I received a letter and package from a long-time friend and former parishioner.
It was so nice to have received your card and letter a few days ago. I think about you folks so very often and pray that everything is progressing to your liking. It has been a little over a year that Betty has passed away. It is rather difficult to adjust to the loneliness that has taken place. After all, we were married for 72.5 years, plus six years going together before we were married.
I am enclosing a couple of things that I had made and thought you might enjoy. I planned that you would have these items before you moved, but that did not happen. The first item is a big letter ‘R.’ This was made out of the wood that came from the pew that was removed from the area where the grand piano is located.
This letter could stand for “Rosendall,” but I like to think of it as “Remembrance.” Something that will remind both of you of all the friends you have made over all the years at First United Methodist Church, Grand Rapids. The other item is a wood bowl that was made out of cherry from a tree that came down across the road here at Gun Lake. Hope you will enjoy them.
Laurie, please send my regards to your father and Gary, please do the same to your mother. God bless both of you.
Your old friend (98+),
Ted Rosendall (signed)
Valentine’s Day is on Friday. I don’t pay any attention to the hype around Valentine’s Day because that day will always be defined by the birth of our third child. Actually, she would have done me a great favor by choosing to appear the previous day! Valentine’s Day always reminds me, however, that because we are only on this earth a little space, our call from God is to bear the beams of love and then share them with others.
By the example of their faith and commitment to each other, even in times of disappointment, heartbreak, and grave health concerns, Ted and Betty taught me to remember my blessings, share my love with others, and live in continual gratitude and praise.
Shortly before Betty died, I was able to visit her in her home. I had not seen Betty for several years, yet when I walked into the room, her face lit up, and all I could see was pure love. She asked about my father and Gary’s mother. She wouldn’t let go of my hand. Then Betty asked me to sing a hymn and mouthed the words as I sang. How could I possibly bear the beams of her love? By resolving to share those beams with others.
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Rose’s granddaughter sat in the front row with two young daughters on either side. When the memorial service began and we stood to sing “Amazing Grace,” the girls dissolved into tears. Their mother put one arm around each of them. Their brother, another great-grandchild of Rose, sat next to his grandmother. When he saw the girls start to cry, he too, began to cry, and his grandmother held him close.
One of the blessings of sitting in the chancel facing the congregation is that I can see the faces of those in the pews. With sniffling, yet shining faces filled with grief as well as compassion for each other, Rose’s family and friends celebrated her life and the way she created family for those around her. On that day, the ordinary beams of love that Rose shared over many decades surrounded us with light and hope. How do you let go of someone you love so deeply? By bearing the beams of their love and sharing those beams with others.
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We had a complex relationship. Sheila was a faithful and gifted middle-aged member of the church, but for some unknown reason she became upset with me. We tiptoed around each other for several years, never sharing more than a few words. One day I knocked on Sheila’s front door when her mother-in-law died, and there was a slight crack in the ice. When Sheila was diagnosed with cancer, I watched and prayed as she struggled with one treatment after another. When it became clear that Sheila might not recover, the beams of love finally melted the ice, and she asked me to come to her home.
As her health declined and she was cared for by family, Shelia asked me to visit twice a week. She never did share the reason for her anger during those years, but it was no longer important. Only love mattered. I remember how stunned I was when she called me her friend for the first time. When she said, “I love you,” I could only pray, “Thank you, God.”
Sheila used her illness as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth, and I saw great changes in her. She decided to embrace the cancer, become vulnerable, and give up the control she loved so dearly. Struggling with difficult questions in an honest, searching way, Sheila become more willing to accept the help and care that others offered.
Sheila asked me to compile a list of scriptures that would be comforting to her. I went through the list whenever I visited, and we would always close by saying Psalm 23 together. Sheila planned her memorial service in detail and gave me this warning, “Don’t make me out to be a saint!”
On the afternoon of Sheila’s death, she had not responded since the night before. Shortly before she died, however, Shelia mouthed the same words she had faithfully said to family and friends for months, “I love you.” A short time later, Sheila opened her eyes and smiled. Her whole face lit up and became more peaceful. It was as if she’d just run into a hundred of her closest friends.
Her daughter asked, “Did you see the light?”
“Yes,” Sheila whispered.
How do you reconcile relationships? By choosing to bear the beams of love and share them with others.
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Ted and Betty got it. Rose’s family got it. Sheila got it. I am still getting it. All spiritual growth is going somewhere. From birth to death, life is a process of uncovering who we really are by being transformed into love, for in the end, all there is, is love.
In the midst of hate, bitterness, and estrangement, love heals. Bearing the beams of love means bearing the mystery of suffering, failure, and sorrow and sharing that learning with others. Love is the beginning, and love is the end. There is nothing we can take with us when we die except love. If only we could live this way and not wait until we die to let go of everything that is not love.
Love is the final chapter. Love is all in all. To whom is God calling you to bear the beams of love this week? And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love.