I don’t often write about religion. I suppose the reason is part pride and part a perceived lack of expertise. You have to go to seminary to write about God, right? What happens if I write something that is considered “wrong” to some Christians? What if my thoughts and feelings are too “liberal” for some? I do live in Chicago, after all. Well, tonight, I don’t care.
In the past year, I’ve experienced a lot of death. Death from disease and death from old age, but death nonetheless. Does it get easier? In our culture, it’s easy to become numb to emotion. It’s easy to text instead of call, send a card or gift instead of stopping by for a visit.
I lost a great aunt, an uncle, and an aunt. Matt lost his great grandmother. I can’t help but think about all the loss I have yet to experience, but also how others have experienced the same and much more by the time they reach age 25. I think of my grandmother, who lost two children, both to the cruel grips of cancer, in the same calendar year. I think of my mom and her siblings, who have lost two siblings and their father. I think of my cousin, who lost his mother at the age of 23. I think of my in-laws, who were blessed with the presence of a godly grandmother until the age of 55, but who is now gone.
A month ago, I sat in a celebration of life of my aunt, Chris Bryant. I cried and grieved with family and friends. Since then, I’ve struggled to accept that death takes a toll. Thoughts, emotions, and regrets can be overwhelming. This week, I keep hearing her laugh and call me “Dalty.” She had an infectious laugh that would take over the room. In my garage, I have a dusty birdhouse she painted and I keep meaning to put it in our yard. I have two framed diplomas from her, that aren’t hung on the wall, but tucked away because I don’t know where to put them. I have a favorite recipe from her for White Chicken Chili, but I can’t remember which cheese she would use when she made it. (It was a damn good cheese.) I wish I had asked her what that cheese was, and I wish I had seen her more than once this year, her final year on this earth.
Earlier this week, I sat in a memorial service for Matt’s great grandmother, Pearl Doorn. Her name is as wonderful as she was: a God-fearing woman who loved and trusted her Savior for all 98 years of her life. The service and message, shared by Pastor Jason Zimmer, felt different. If you’re not familiar, a “usual” Christian memorial service has an underlying message of bringing people to the faith. This one, though, was a message about faith and fruit.
“Where there is faith, there is fruit.” - Jason Zimmer
Pastor Zimmer talked about fruit-bearing trees. For Pearl, her faith was evident to everyone who met her. “She was something,” people kept saying at the memorial. She was kind. She was patient. She was faithful. Through 98 years of life, after losing her spouse almost 25 years ago, she was faithful. Her tree bore fruit. Sweet, ripe fruit.
For my aunt Chris, her faith was evident to everyone who met her, too. She would have given her last dollar to someone else if they really needed it. She was loving. She was generous. She was faithful. Even in the midst of her cancer, she was thinking of others. She was preparing her son and husband for life without her. She was giving of herself when frankly, there wasn’t much left to give. God gave her strength and her tree bore fruit. Sweet, ripe fruit.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit
and so prove to be my disciples.” - John 15:8
We all have trees and they all bear fruits, whether you’re a believer or not. Is your fruit sweet, or is it rotten? I hope my tree bears fruit like Pearl and Chris.