The man who died taught my class in Sunday School and I enjoyed his lessons immensely. He always taught with an extra dimension of originality, and then topped it off with a sense of humor. His terminal cancer was untimely. He was leaving behind a new wife and young son. Before he died, he asked me if I’d sing at his funeral. Before I could answer, I bawled. He tried to comfort me and told me he was at peace.
“I’ll miss snuggling in bed at night with my wife and watching my little boy grow up,” he said. “But I trust God. I know everything will turn out all right.”
A friend of this man was asked to give a talk at his funeral. While I was sitting near the podium after singing the requested musical number, this friend walked haltingly to the microphone. He shook with emotion as he stood awkwardly at the pulpit preparing to begin. Whenever he tried to speak a flood of emotion would overwhelm him. He’d pull himself together before he’d try again. This happened over and over for a good five minutes. Five minutes behind a pulpit without saying anything tends to get the audience’s attention. We were all praying for him. Finally this man was able to utter three words. Those three words changed my life.
“He loved me,” this friend said with tears streaming down his face.
That was all he was able to utter before he sat down. Those three words were the sole text of the most beautiful sermon I’ve ever heard.
It occurred to me that if someone could say those three words about me when I died, I will have lived a meaningful life. I’d previously thought my value depended on how many people loved me, not how many people I loved. Because of that talk I realized that love loses its power when we expect something back. We love best when we let go expectations of what we want in return. Since that day at the funeral, I made a decision to live the rest of my life as a student studying the miracle of love . . . and it has been a grand journey.