Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Beautiful Life, a Beautiful Lesson

The moment I learned of his passing, I began trying to make sense of things. My Uncle Tim, my Godfather, was gone after fighting a heroic battle with leukemia. 

By definition, a Godparent's role is to provide an example of faith to their Godchild and aid in the growth of their spiritual life. 

For the next hour in the middle of the night, I lay awake thinking of him and the ways in which he set an example in my life over the past 28 years. First, he loved his family--his wife, two daughters, son-in-law and grand-baby, as well as all the rest of us, his large, Polish-Catholic family. A love that I recognize in my own marriage and family. And Tim had talent. Massive talent. (I challenge anyone to listen to his music and not find their toe tapping along or find themselves humming the melody the rest of the day) He shared that gift just as the Lord wanted him to and his music has touched people across the nation and around the world. In addition to sharing beautiful music, he used his voice to help those less fortunate, becoming involved in fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which supports children afflicted by catastrophic diseases. I also witnessed this compassion first-hand after he and my Aunt Dianne visited my father in the hospital often while he was gravely ill--keeping him company and giving him hope. And of course, Tim showed his friends and family the power of hard work and determination, as just a few short years ago, he went back to school, completing his bachelor's degree.

These examples--few among many, I might add--were shown to me through Tim's life here on earth. Now, I've always known these things and it certainly didn't take his passing for me to recognize it. But today I found the greatest lesson of all would come to me after his journey home.

Driving to work this morning, the morning of his death, human nature got the best of me. How could all these people--how could I--drive to work, when such a beautiful person is gone? Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about it. 

But to this naive, skeptical question, I immediately received a powerful answer: because, Kelly, he isn't dead. In fact, he is very much alive. Alive eternally with Jesus, just waiting for the rest of us to arrive and partake in the glory he is experiencing. Alive in the beautiful Nebraska sunrise. Alive in the beautiful music he left us to cherish. Alive in his wife, two daughters, son-in-law and grandbaby. Alive in his mother, father, seven siblings and their spouses, and dozens of nieces and nephews. Alive in all those whose lives he touched, whether through his music, charity or friendship. And alive in me, his Godchild, through his example of faith.

I wept at the foolishness of my doubt and then smiled, remembering that today, July 3, is the Feast Day of Saint Thomas--you know, "Doubting Thomas?"  A disciple of Jesus, he doubted the resurrection and needed to touch Jesus' wounds before believing. After seeing the Lord alive and being given a chance to touch the wounds, Thomas professed his faith. Touché, Lord, touché.

As Christians, we believe that God does not allow suffering or death to be without a purpose, a meaning. When faced with suffering and death, we can choose to trust God and his plan to use our suffering for a greater good, or we can become angry and feel betrayed. 

Tim chose trust. He faced the grotesque monster that is cancer with grace and trust in God's plan for his life. 

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

Truly, the most important lesson I learned from my Godfather was being taught to me when he was at his physical weakest.

When I visited him in the hospital on Sunday night and held his weak, thin hand, my uncle was teaching me something so strong, so powerful. Teaching me trust, courage, hope, love and acceptance of God's will in my own life. He entered into his battle with cancer not knowing the outcome. He trusted God. For this lesson I will be ever grateful. And I thank the Lord for sharing Tim with us. Because, after all, we all belong to Him.

So, I offer up this Irish blessing--one of my favorites--for a wonderful soul, who is very much alive in his family, friends and all who were blessed to know him.

Uncle Tim, until we meet again...

"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.May the sun shine warm upon your face.May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand."

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