My time is coming to a close there in this beautiful place called South Africa. I had my morning planned, eat a healthy breakfast, write a profound Easter blog, do a bit of cleaning for my daughter and then head to the seashore. So I headed to a local coffee shop I have fallen in love with and will miss deeply.
I was about halfway into intensely writing an Easter blog with amazingly profound thoughts on Jesus living aware to others during his final week and how death creates life, when I got interrupted. Andre was sitting at the breakfast bar to my right and had to keep asking me for a condiment sauce, sugar or the pepper grinder in order to not reach over my laptop to retrieve it. I enjoyed our simple interchanges, any excuse to hear this great South African accent. At one point he asked me about my accent, where I was from and what I did. I politely gave him a simple answer about being a pastor and working to help men and women discover relational wholeness.
Over the course of the next hour and a half he shared his story with me. He is taking leave for six weeks from working as a counselor for addicts in recovery, to do some healing around the loss of both of his parents in the course of one week—a tragically beautiful love story, they died within two days of one another, even death could not separate them. Andre is the son who was closest in proximity, he had managed all the practical end of life details for them, but capacity to function did not mean he had grieved.
Grief had returned him to his faith, these past three months something that because of his sexuality he had fled in order to not be abused. Grief was teaching him to risk being in relationship, and as he jokingly said, even talking to a pastor. We talked about God, love, life now and life eternally. He shared about how deeply he misses his parents, how he longs for a love that can impact another’s life—like his parents had experienced. I listened, mostly looked at pictures of his vineyards, images of a Tuscany style home he is building and tasted a sample of olive oil that he had just harvested from his olive groves.
At one point he offered an apology for interrupting my morning and my writing. My writing, my plan, my words seemed far away and very insignificant at this moment, and quite truthfully I could have missed the whole experience. God laid a test out there for me to trip into—would I live aware? Could I let my profound words die and let someone else tell the Easter story about life?
As we were preparing to each go our own way, he reached out and touched my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You have a beautiful heart.” I asked if I could give him a hug, a motherly embrace and there in the coffee shop a grown man laid his head on my shoulder and cried and cried and cried and I cried with him. When we wiped our snotty noses and laughed at the spectacle we must have created, he looked me in the eye and said,
“I needed to share this morning with someone to be reminded of what love is, one can’t face death alone.”
No Andre, one cannot and because of Jesus, neither of us have to. So, thank you for letting me taste of Easter, instead of just write about it. Thank you for taking the risk.
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Jesus lived aware, will I?