Saturday, August 9, 2008
“A human life is a story told by God.”Hans Christian Andersen
I attended the funeral of a 23-year-old man this week and never were those words written by Hans Christian Andersen truer. Nichollas Jon Newell was his name and he died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep. He lived a life filled with pain as a result of the illness that caused his death and was treated for each symptom along the way, but nothing could save his life when God called him home.
I didn’t know Nick well—in fact had only met him recently and spent a small fragment of time with him, but got to know him vicariously through my sister and her family who loved him deeply. I got to know him all the more at his memorial service, where people filled the church and stood outside lining the building.
The story God told in and through this young man’s brief life was of struggle, sadness and pain for the most part. But the chapter he would want remembered was the most recent in which God’s transformational power reigned in Nick’s life, allowing him to overcome gang involvement and drug addiction.
But this saga doesn’t end there. Nick became a counselor at New Horizon Christian Academy (a school for troubled boys) where he lived in very meager surroundings. In spite of his crushing pain, he worked hard and didn’t complain. He never responded in anger when his boys gave him a challenge or when adults (friends or strangers) were rude, unkind or judgmental. The story God told through his abbreviated life was one of deep love…for God and for people. The only sad part of the story is that it left many, many people longing for more.
Grief is so multidimensional. It has an impact on entire families, even communities, as with Nick. But within that is the personal grief experienced by each person. What a mom feels is different than what a sister feels, than what a fiancée feels, than what a friend feels... It is just as real and hurts just as much and is experienced and expressed uniquely by each of those left in the wake.
Grief never feels good. It hurts like hell. But if grief could possibly have an upside, it would be that everyone experiencing it could feel such certainly that their loved one lived a life utterly overflowing with joy and has moved on to even more of the same (without physical pain or unkind people) for eternity. Those who loved Nick have that assurance to make their grief a little more bearable. I think Nick would be so happy for that and would want those who loved him to be able to recover from this disabling grief and look toward the story God is writing in their own lives.
Dedicated to Nick’s precious Natalie
*View Nick's rap on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ajKZm6efN4