God gives gifts.
Someone once told me those three words are the essence of the Gospel. Gospel language is gift language. Undeserved, thoughtful, sacrificial.
The best gift that I have received from God, other than my salvation, is the gift of brothers and sisters brought together by our brother Jesus. As I sit here reflecting on the death of Gene, my brother in Jesus, as I am reminded of the gift that he was in this life - to me and to so, so many others - I see that in this brother I received something for which the only appropriate response is thanksgiving.
I received in Gene a brother in the faith, but I also received in him a father in the faith, whose wisdom was shared when I needed to hear it, who put himself out there to invest life into the lives of others, who offered himself up to give a pattern and example to others, who could show a stern face that ever so lightly covered the softest heart. This was all gift. And for that, I am thankful.
And as I received Gene as a brother and a father, I also received in Gene a son. A man who would listen to me and whatever wisdom I might have had. Who let me buy him a slice of pie when he told me what was going on with his health and the tests he was going in for. A man whose humor stopped right at the 8th grade, but with the technical perfection of being a dad himself, he somehow amplified it just the right way to elicit the proper groan in you that would leave your mouth raised in a smile.
I have been asked before why I do this job, that is, how do I deal with the ups and downs of caring for others? And in truth, it can be hard. It can be heartbreaking. Two weeks ago I was talking with Gene about the people who have gone before us, the characters of the drama of St. Stephanus and elsewhere who have blessed us along the way. The list is large. I think on the tears I've shed for these brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and I think on the beauty of the gift that I should be so blessed to have had them in my life. God has thoughtfully brought me into a faith, and a faith community, where he lays out these gifts. A place where I can be a brother, and a father and a son. Where we can be brothers and sisters in Jesus. Where we can be children of a heavenly Father. Where we can be sons and daughters of a living God. That me or you experience that at all is a miracle, it's a gift.
And that's what God is all about.