Jean has died. I’m not sure of the date, nor even the circumstances. I hope her passing was peaceful and she wasn’t alone.
The words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians come to mind: “At present we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we shall see face to face. My knowledge now is partial but then it will be whole, like God’s knowledge of me.” (1st Corinthians chapter 13, verse 12)
By the grace of God, that has been Jean’s experience.
As for her family, well, once again, Paul supplies the words I don’t have: “There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance.” (1st Corinthians chapter 13, verse 7) May they be bound together in their love for Jean and their love for one another.
I once heard an elderly member of the church say, “Well, if we really believe that there’s something better to come after this life on earth, why do we get so sad when somebody dies?”
It was more of an exclamation than a question. For she was a wise woman and I have no doubt she knew the answer, which is to do with how much we will miss the one who has gone.
I cannot claim that I will miss Jean as her family and friends will miss her. For I never knew her. I don’t know what she looked like, or sounded like, what her favourite hymn was, whether she enjoyed cooking or gardening or painting. Perhaps she had had an interesting career with many accolades to her name. Maybe she will be most missed because she was a sensitive listener, someone who could keep a secret, who didn’t judge, who had endless patience for reading the same story to a child or picking up the pieces when a grown-up child made the same mistakes over and over.
I don’t know.
And yet the news of Jean’s death filled my heart with sadness. She leaves behind a husband – that I do know.
Her name, and his, have become familiar to me over the months of lockdown for they have been included Sunday by Sunday in the prayers of intercession in the church overseas where I’ve been worshipping online (in addition to worshipping close to home).
So that is Jean’s gift to me, and though she would not know that she had made it, I want to thank her. It is a lasting legacy: this confirmation that I am spiritually connected to the Christian community of which she was a valued member. And so, with them, I grieve the loss of Jean from their midst.