Because she had been reconnecting with her faith as lymphoma began to take her life, and because long before the end she had asked me to read to her when the time came, I started reading parts of the Bible to Red around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. I started with the Nativity story from Luke 2, detoured to Genesis 1, went through much of the Sermon on the Mount, and shared more Psalms than I remember. I made sure to include Proverbs 31 in the mix and was not surprised to realize that I was sitting next to the woman described in that passage.
When she passed away at about 7:20 a.m., I believe the last thing she heard on this mortal coil was Matthew 22:34-40:
And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”
Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What wonderful words to share anytime, but especially at that particular moment!
People like to blame God for some of the most atrocious behavior humanity can produce, but scratch even slightly below the surface and you discover that the atrocities were committed not by God but by foolish humans who thoroughly misinterpreted the God whose two most important laws begin with the word “Love.” It’s not God’s fault that we can’t read or listen.
At a time like this, you realize how petty are our squabbles with our neighbors. Why waste time doing anything except loving when we have only a finite time on this planet?
I had the privilege of spending nearly 26 years with the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and of course I’m wrecked. But I’m mostly grateful that she entered my life when she did and stayed as long as that. I feel like the most blessed of men to have been part of the life of such a special person.
Red was a Master Gardener, and I came home Tuesday afternoon to find the first echinacea bloom of the season, always my favorite among the perennials she planted. God’s timing is impeccable.