We completed the first leg of the 3-part "memorial" relay on Saturday. What a beautiful time. Leslie was loved so perfectly by so many, and God was honored and worshiped. Leslie would have been so pleased. (And probably a little embarrassed.) :)
There was a heck of a thunderstorm that rolled through right as the formal service was beginning. It was kind of freaky- in an almost comical way. It was a beautiful morning. Sun shining. A little muggy, maybe, and then... right during the opening prayer for the ceremony...
Thunder. 10 minutes later, torrential downpour. It made for quite the adventure, as the ceremony was in one of those tents-- the really fancy kind with windows and glass doors, typically seen being used at country clubs as additional seasonal banquet facilities. Nice, but not 100% waterproof. Some of the lightening strikes were so close the static popped the amps and speakers. But the attendees, participants, and $30,000 sound system I borrowed from my church for the occasion were spared. (PHEW!)
I shared a few words before I led the music/ worship time. There were a few convincing cracks of thunder, just as I was talking about the presence and power of God. I just looked out the window and at the audience and laughed.
"Anybody out there doubt He's present and mighty?" (or something along those lines...)
But then I really got a chuckle as the thought entered my mind...
"Or actually... maybe that was Leslie." Everybody really laughed at that one. Something about the spunk and perfect timing of that thunder that made the thought pretty believable.
And then, just before we closed the service... as we were finishing "Amazing Grace", to be followed by a rendition of TJ's and Leslie's favorite song to sing together ("Mighty to Save"), the rain stopped and the sun came out. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
The reception was amazing. So many hugs from strangers, friends, family, and people I've not seen since our wedding. So many stories about Leslie that I'd never heard... some others re-told from the another perspective, bringing new life to stories she'd told me over the years. The time flew by. I'd expected to be absolutely drained by the end... but the whole experience was actually energizing for my spirit. I left for the drive back home completely in love with my wife... feeling closer to her than I have since she left me on July 26. In that place-- that ceremony, that gathering of friends-- Leslie lived. She was there. Her life was shared and celebrated. And I felt her smile and laugh filling my soul, just as it used to.
Praise God for the gift of life, and for love that He allows to endure even death.
Can't wait for the next two weekends!