My friend Robert died. He was found in his apartment on the Monday before Easter. I first met him at the community dinner. He told me that his life had been completely changed because of the dinner church community. The dinner is where he was baptized, where he made friends with college students, where he was inspired to go back to school. The dinner is where we talked about his life spent in homeless missions and Christian outreach programs. We met for coffee on Thursdays and talked about go fund me sites for laptops, friendly security guards, and Jesus. The church bought him a laptop and the school let him sleep in the lobby before class started. We always ended our time in prayer.
The last time I saw him he looked terrible. He was at the dinner and said he couldn’t feel the left side of his body. I called 911 and the paramedics arrived. I finally talked Robert into letting me drive him to the emergency room. He was discharged two days later. I went to his apartment to check on him but couldn’t find the address. He died alone, in his very first apartment, he was sixty-one years old.
I spoke with his sister on the phone after he had passed. She shared stories of Roberts’ childhood that made me sick to my stomach. “Dad was really tough on Robert. I wouldn’t have wished his life on anyone.”
The memorial service was hosted in a beautiful Lutheran Church where the Friday dinner is held. We all shared stories of how we had known Robert, how he had made himself known to us. Instead of avoiding his suffering, Robert exposed his wounds to community dinners. Healing and hope were found in his emotional and spiritual scar tissue. After the resurrection, Jesus is revealed by his wounds. The scars on his hands and side, the scars of torture identify Jesus as the one who overcomes. Robert died a man who had reconciled his past, a life of injustice and neglect, to spend his future with eternal hope. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe (John 20:27).” Thank you, Robert, for sharing your life with me. Thank you for teaching us how to touch forgiveness in suffering.