We are losing a generation… the greatest one, I am told. My heart is sad about this because these people are the staples of our world. They are the foundation, and the wisdom. They are the examples of faith, and family…selfless love, and character. This week my friend Mary Knoll died from Parkinson’s disease, leaving behind her husband John. I don’t know what it is about this generation, but the couples seem inseparable. It’s like their names are one, JohnandMary. The thing is that they radiate joy, even after over 50 years of marriage; they glow in their love for one another. This is not the only couple like this. In the last year, I know of at least three seemingly inseparable couples that have been parted by loss. All in the same age range. All young in their love for one another. Maybe lifetime love was better understood back then. Maybe commitment to one another was greater. Maybe they had a firm foundation to build upon. Whatever the reason, it seems to me to be a beautiful trait.
John and Mary are the grandparents of our church. They have been active and involved for years, but more than their activity level, they are known for their heart. I use the singular of that word on purpose. They were so in tune with each other it is like they shared one soul. I feel sure they had their differences, but to see them together you would never know it. Each seemed so at home in the presence of the other that the warmth of their love overflowed to those of us around them. The ease with which they related to each other is something most of the couples who knew them as a couple aspired to.
There was always much laughter with the two of them around, but I cannot describe with words the sparkle in Mary’s eyes when she smiled. It was a cross between a twinkle and a gleam and it radiated from within. Her laughter was playful and it matched her countenance perfectly. However, that was not all there was to Mary. No her childlike spirit was coupled with a steady trust. There was a depth and wisdom that came from years of communing with God. She was a woman of faith who loved Jesus with her very being. Her walk with him was real and it was important to her. If you were around her very long you knew this. She impressed it on her children and grandchildren with regularity, and they were never far from her prayers.
Her friendships were varied, no one was too young for her to befriend, and no one was excluded from her circle. The way she embraced others is what endeared her to all of us. She was gentle with spunk. She was kind with sass. The spark of life could not be hidden, not even by disease. The most beautiful thing about Mary was the way she lit up a room, not by barging into it, but just by entering. The light of Christ resided inside of her and shown out to the rest of us through her face. He illuminated her from within and she could not have hidden that if she tried.
She will be missed. Her hugs. Her laughter. Her joy. There will be a hole where she was in each of our lives. Yet, I think you can still feel her. I think when you see John you see her. I think that when you hear laughter she is remembered. In fact, I don’t think she can be forgotten. She has poured into too many, for too long, to fade into the background. Her influence will continue. Her life will make us think about ours. Her relationship with John will make us ponder our own marriages. Her love of God will make us contemplate our communication with him. Hers was a life well lived, not without heartache or pain, no life is without those things, but a life of joy despite them. A contented soul, who pointed us all to love one another. And in the end, what more could you want from your life than to demonstrate the love of God? Now she knows fully, that which she knew only in part. It has come to her and she is saturated with his love. Even as we cry for missing her, she is laughing and singing over us. She is free to worship with abandon. She is free to commune with her Savior. She is free.