We shouldn’t have to watch cancer debilitate our loved ones as we pray to God for healing, only to feel like those prayers have fallen on deaf ears.
In a perfect world, little girls walk down the aisle with their father by their side; men shake hands with their soon-to-be father-in-law as he hands over his daughter’s hand in marriage; and eventually, grandfathers enjoy precious time with their grandchildren.
But our world isn’t perfect. It’s broken.
Visiting Her Father
My wife and I were in Raleigh, North Carolina for a football game last fall when we decided to visit her father’s graveside. An intricate maze of headstones decorates one of the oldest cemeteries in the Capital City where her father is laid to rest.
I watched my wife as she looked intently at the bends in the road, remembering in her mind the same journey she had made some eighteen years before. I imagined my wife, at the young, impressionable age of fourteen, riding with her family through the same winding path. Each turn taking her closer to burying her father.
Even though ten years had passed since her last visit, she still remembered where to go. There are some things we never forget.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from our visit, but I knew it would be hard for her. Honestly, I think she was surprised at how difficult it was. She misses her daddy.
We told the boys that we were going to visit Grandpa Jim, but I’m not sure that you can prepare three and four-year-olds for what that really means.
I know Liz was proud to introduce her sons to their grandfather, but I’m sure this isn’t the setting she expected. She envisioned them kicking a soccer ball with him or learning how to shoot a basketball–the way she remembered her childhood. But instead, she introduced them to a gravestone inscribed:
James Ruffin Bailey, Jr. 1951-1994
After a few minutes and a couple of photographs, I hugged Liz and told her to spend some time with her dad. As I buckled the kids into their car seats, I looked to see my precious wife, standing over her father’s gravesite.
My soul stirred within me.
When she came back to the car, we said a family prayer together and made our way out of the cemetery.
Etched in Stone
I couldn’t stop looking at all of the gravestones. Each one represented a unique individual. Years had passed, erasing the physical presence of these people, yet their gravestones remained. A marker of their life–etched in stone.
Liz told us stories of her father. He was raised in a stern, but loving home and had a die-hard passion for athletics, especially when it involved his children or his Tarheels. She reminisced about his efforts to become an attorney vanish as he failed the bar exam multiple times. Despite his disappointment, he still worked to provide for his family. And finally, she shared tearful stories of his courageous battle with cancer that eventually cost him his life.
As I heard these stories, I began to understand:
Gravestones may mark a life, but the marker of a rich life is the stories it leaves behind.
Friends, you and I are writing a story that will one day be etched in stone–the story of our lives. There are no second chances at life, no do-overs. We get one shot.
And I’m learning that even though it’s not a perfect, flawless story, the imperfections will teach us–if we allow them to. The imperfections and our response to them says everything about the story we are creating.
And that is the beauty of today. We are still creating our story. Each of us has a chisel in our hand. We are sculpting our lives in stone, one day at a time. Every day presents the opportunity for a new notch in an ever-growing legacy.
I’m so proud of my wife. Of the woman and mother she has become. I’m inspired by her strength to not allow past define her, but rather, move her.
This was her Facebook status just last week:
I’m learning that the more I expect others to complete me and fill the void that only Christ was meant to fill, the more disappointed I am and the more complicated it gets. It’s quite simple if we will just take the time to rest in God’s presence.
She is a confirmation of the words in Proverbs:
A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.
So, to my wife, Liz, and the rich legacy you are creating despite the imperfections. You are my crown.