Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Names, Snowflakes, and Eternal Significance

Last night my family and I attended a memorial service presented by the Hospice House for the families of those who passed away this past year. I wasn't sure how many people would be there, but I figured, for some reason, that it would be a fairly small crowd. I was wrong. Thankfully, we arrived early enough to easily find six chairs together and we waited, listening to an elderly lady (a retired RN, the program said) play Christmas carols on an electric keyboard at the front of the room while the place filled up. While we waited I read the program we had been given at the door, and I scanned the list of names that accompanied it. I found my Pappaw's name: Sam Grant. Such a simple name. Nothing special, at least not to anyone else. No one else in that room knew who Sam Grant was except for my husband and children. The doctor who saw him two or three times in the hospice house didn't really know him. None of the nurses who had so kindly taken care of him were there and, besides, they didn't really know him. I read his name again...thinking of those last moments I sat there by his bed in that hospice room. Memories flooded back, and the tears came. I held them back, mostly, but just barely. I wished that everyone there, that everyone everywhere could know about the man behind that common, nondescript name. That wonderful, giving, sacrificial, hard working, loving man: Sam. One man who touched so many lives, but was so unknown. So unrecognized. And that's how he wanted it.

The service began. Prayers were prayed, songs were sung, and kind, gentle, understanding words were spoken to the grieving families. 

At the front of the room, in the center, was a Christmas tree, unlit and sparsely decorated. Later in the service the Hospice staff gathered around the tree, and the Hospice chaplain explained that staff members would take turns reading the list of names aloud and, that as a name on the list was read, staff members would place an ornament on the tree in memory of that person while others gave an ornament to the families that were present. The reading of the names began and the ornaments, beautiful white snowflakes, were placed on the tree as a corresponding ornament was giving to the  family of the deceased.

It was, of course, very quiet, very solemn. Some were weeping. I looked again at that list. So many names...367...and each one represented a lifetime of love, hopes, dreams, heartbreaks, tears, smiles.... It struck me once again how very short life is. The Bible speaks of it being a vapor, and that is the perfect comparison. A vapor.... 

Out of all of those names I don't think there were any that were any plainer or simpler than "Sam Grant", but there were plenty that were just plain ol' ordinary names. They weren't all eye-catching, or regal, or interesting. But each one of those names represented someone like my Pappaw. Well, maybe they weren't all quite the person he was, because, in my opinion, no one could be. But...maybe they were that and more. And now, they were reduced to names on a list, ornaments on a tree. 

It didn't take long for that tree to be covered with snowflakes. Each one representing far more than just a name. It struck me: even though I didn't know any of them, and even though those people were nothing more to me than names on a piece of paper, they were infinitely important to someone else. To their time. To God. Those snowflake ornaments transformed that tree, one by one. 

As they dimmed the lights and lit the tree, the transformation was complete. It was so beautiful, and it spoke to me; no one is just a name, a nobody. No one is worthless. Every life is beautiful. We all matter.  Each ornament on that tree was symbolic of someone who meant something very special to the people in that room that night. They may not have rocked their world, cured cancer, or brought about world peace, but in their own way they made a difference just by being.

You matter. You are significant. It doesn't matter if you're important or recognized by any group of people. It doesn't matter if you're plain-named, plain living, and ordinary. 

You can make the most of the life you've been given by making a difference for good in the lives of those around you, even if it's by doing the litte things, the simple things. 

They matter. You matter.

It's true; life is short. But it's eternal, too.



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