"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
- William Arthur Ward
Very recently, I was called by a dear family member to ask if I could come pray over her husband who was in the last days of his life. His body was filled with cancerous tumors and as it turned out, he had meager hours left, not days.
This man and his beautiful wife were avid travelers. They visited places on the globe that would bring wonder and joy to their spirits as they relished the new foods, sights, and mostly the people they would meet during their various adventures. He had an easy smile and offered everyone he met a generous dose of love and a twinkle of friendship in his eyes. One time he exclaimed after coming home from a breathtaking tour of Italy; "It was like paradise!" This couple soaked in God's amazing creation together and appreciated every drop. Now, it was time to travel yet again...but solo.
His family and I encircled him - a sacred holding - and prayed to God to take him into Heaven's eternity and to the perfect place the Father has prepared for those that believe in Christ and love Him, where death no longer stings or gets a vote. In that moment, I could envision Jesus walking forward with His arms stretched out wide, very soon telling this wonderful man, "Welcome Home".
As we prayed, he was very restful, and I sensed his body calm and relax. He was fully at peace. The prayers were like a long-ago lullaby of a doting mother...reminding him of how truly loved he was and that he was safe in the arms of the One who had held him his entire life.
After the hushed "Amen", everyone filed out of the room, and I gently cupped his frail face in my hands. He looked straight into my eyes; soul brushing soul, and I gave a final offering telling him: "Thank you for being wonderful. Thank you for always caring deeply for others, and for being a vessel of God's soft, love-light in this often-brittle world. We all lived better because of you." He held his gaze, the slightest twinkle remaining, and nodded with a grin. A cherished gift to me.
In that silent, holy-night moment, his smile spoke volumes. I knew that he heard me loud and clear as I let him know: "You made a difference, and I will not take your life for granted". I gifted him with my gratitude, and he gifted me right back with his.
When we stop in the sacred pause and offer up thanks, we receive the unwrapped gift of fullness of life ourselves. Love begets love and spreads like a pollinated field of wildflowers bringing life and color and goodness to us all. Scripture reminds us of our daily calling to be ardent sowers of gratitude:
"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving". (Colossians 4:2 NASB)
These words tell us to keep watchful and hold "...an attitude of thanksgiving." But why? Why bother in a world of cancer-ridden bodies, war, pain, death, and darkness should we remain thankful? Because God made a way of salvation from it all, for us all.
He is holding out for each one of us a one-way ticket to Paradise and keys to the Gate of eternal life through Christ. We should be grateful that we will forever sing songs in the land of the living!
This man I held and prayed over did not die, he just traveled to his next destination: true Paradise at last, and, he will never have to leave. There is no ticket out - be thankful! Anyone who receives the gift of Christ as their Lord and Savior unwraps God's life-gift here and now and into eternity.
Thank. YOU. Lord. I will remember this dear man's beautiful life-offerings to me and all who knew him, and I will offer my life out also as a thanks-offering to You Lord, who gives us our daily bread and breath of life to unwrap and enjoy while I am awaiting my ticket Home too.