Joel is much more like a brother than just a friend. We met at Clemson University as students back in 1976. In 1985, I was in his wedding, as he married his best friend, Patty. He was sick as a dog with the flu and missed his rehearsal dinner and didn't feel better until he and Patty, started home from their honeymoon. Though they didn't have the best honeymoon, the did have one of the best marriages I've ever seen. They had three boys, Matthew, Robert and Benjamin, who have grown into great young men. During the mid-90's, I had the amazing gift of having Joel and his family join my church family in Denmark.
It was a great honor to ordain Joel as a deacon, and to baptize his oldest son, Matthew. During those three years, I got another gift...I got to know Patty. Oh, I knew her from those sporadic visits during the first decade of their marriage, but those three years gave us an opportunity to become really good friends. (It also helped me to have a better foundation with the boys, too!)
Since that time, whenever I had good news to share with Joel and Patty, I'd call and ask to talk with Patty if Joel answered, because she had a much easier time getting excited about my good news. Patty was definitely the Tigger to Joel's Eeyore (not that he's "that" Eeyore-ish, but he'd admit his "style" is a bit more on the sedate side compared to Patty's.) Just as they had done in my church, Joel and Patty became very attached and involved in their new church. Three and half years ago they were serving as Sunday School Co-Directors. Three and a half years ago on their wedding anniversary, they got the news that Patty had lung cancer.
Patty and Joel valiantly fought the disease for these three and half years, and on Friday, March 8th, a week and a half ago, Patty passed from her suffering to the life Christ promised her many years ago. Though we know she is healed, and home with the Lord, she has left a huge hole (crater!) in the lives of those who knew and loved her, especially in the lives of Joel and his family. The hole is huge because the love between Patty and her husband and children was huge.
I was honored to be a part of the service which praised and thanks God for giving us such a wonderful gift in Patty's life and love. Today as I was looking at videos for Easter, I came across this one. It made me think of Patty, and about how many people Christ touched through her life....people who were moved closer to Christ because of the way her life impacted them, either directly or indirectly. This film is true because we won't know until we get to heaven, how far the love in our lives have traveled to "complete strangers," who may surprise us in heaven as part of our "family" because they were links in the chair of our influence.
I believe one of the joys Patty experienced when she arrived in heaven was to find out how far that love has spread. It is still spreading, even as I am sharing part of her story here. So as Easter approaches, remember that Christ died not only to get us into heaven, but to make us part of a wonderful chain of transforming love, a chain that Patty so wholeheartedly embraced. Her life is a powerful reminder of the reason we're here: to love God and love others. If you are willing to be a part of this amazing chain of love and redemption, you, too, will have an unexpected surprise in heaven to find out just how far that love has gone, and just how many lives it changed.
This is the best life a person can live, and Patty's life is further proof of that. So may we honor the gift Christ gave us through His death and resurrection by passing the gift to others, so they can pass it on to more people, who will, in turn, be able to pass it on to others....just like this video shows....click on it and find out!