Luke’s life here lasted only six years. The snip/snip that is intended to result in no more surprises in the area of reproduction was not enough to stop Luke from entering their family. Luke had a heart transplant and beat lymphoma in his short life. His Brother and Sister who are in high school are two very special young people. His funeral was yesterday morning. The church was full from top to bottom and side to side. Because Luke was such a happy little fellow who brightened everyone’s world, there was great joy mixed with the tears.
As people arrived, we were all given a Spiderman decal and a wet wipe to use to transfer it to our hand or arm or wherever we chose. Luke was a hopeless fan of Spiderman. At the end of the service the hundreds of Hot Wheels cars that he had collected over his few years were given away to the children (and lots of the Adults) in attendance). There was a reminder card attached to each car.
The worship Service beautifully constructed by the Pastor and the family began with some videos of Luke in happy, silly moments, breaking through our grief. In his sermon the Pastor provided a wonderful litany of the various gifts Luke brought to the family and all who knew him. I was honored that the Pastor asked me also to offer some comments in the Service. I had been the Pastor at the church before I retired a little over four years ago and have known the family for many years.
I had not seen the contents of the service before I arrived for the funeral. Among the many songs, the song that followed my homily had been chosen by Luke’s Mom and Dad after each of them independently had awakened with it in his/her mind. It was “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” You will understand my surprise to see it in the Service in that spot after you read the homily below. Later in the Service two very gifted singers sang, “This Little Light of Mine.” When you read the homily below, the words I shared in that Service, you will see why it appeared that there was an unseen Guiding Hand in the process of the preparations. What follows are the words I spoke in the homily.
Darrel, Kim, Dalton, Mackenzie, you and the rest of this remarkable family loved him so much. I can’t even begin to imagine the complexity of what you must be feeling, the pain of losing him and the wonder of having him in your life for six years. Is there anyone who knew Luke who didn’t fall in love with him? It is impossible to describe the impact such a little character could have on the lives of so many people. He was a part of very many lives around here and in other places.
I remember the look on your faces when you first shared the news that this little surprise was on his way. It is as if Luke declared, ready or not, here I come! I have to say that even though he was not much over a year old when I retired and I have only had moments with him in the Narthex on occasion in these last years, as soon as I heard the news I realized something about his impact. It is so tempting to get discouraged when looking at the turmoil all around us in this volatile world. It comes at us from every direction, every day. After the news of Luke’s departure settled in, I caught sight of a feeling of hope that was emerging. It came from realizing that if such joy and wonder and innocence could exist in little Luke right here in this crazy world, there is reason to hope.
I would not presume to know the why’s and wherefore’s of what has happened here. There are some things however that seem obvious to me. You four in particular feel so blessed to have been privileged to be given the gift of Luke to enjoy for too few years – not always easy years. What is obvious to me is that God knew exactly what family into which to create Luke. Luke got to have you four as his family. You might just think the Lord brought you together, the four of you, not only to be the sort of people he intends you to be, but so that you could be family with Luke. The Lord has more for you to be and do, and Luke has been a part of the Lord’s preparing you for what life will bring, His plans for you. I am not sure you fully realize how much the rest of us respect you as a family, even before Luke joined you. Your stock went up when God sent him to join you. Luke could not have a Mom and a Dad who loved him more than you. Luke could not have had a big brother and a big sister who loved him any more than you two. I remember marveling at your maturity and graciousness, Dalton, even as a Seventh Grader in Confirmation and I was looking forward to your time in Confirmation MacKenzie when I retired before enjoying that privilege.
There is something else about Luke and his time here with you that seems to me to reveal the core, the heart of God’s activity in our lives. Luke wormed his way into your heart, into the hearts even of those of us who saw him only on occasion, but especially to you four and those who had the privilege of having time with him as extended family and close friends. He wormed his way into your hearts. There were no defenses. That smile, his joy, his wonder all worked its magic.
His leaving has broken your heart, the hearts of all who loved him. I wonder if that is one of the reasons Luke was here – to break your hearts open. When my heart was broken a couple of years ago, there was a giant gaping hole. Someone wrote something that struck me very powerfully, something suggesting that what actually had happened is that my heart had broken open.
The person wrote: “There is no way to be human without having one’s heart broken. Imagine that small, clenched fist of a heart ‘broken open’ into largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.”
Then he points to the crux of the matter, the reason we can have hope even in our grief, in the face of Luke’s death. God’s heart was broken on that Cross for the sake of humankind, for our sake, for Luke’s sake. It wasn’t ever about how wonderful a family you are at your best and how sweet Luke has always been, or how good any of us manages to be, it is about the Love of a Lord who fills each of us and reshapes us by the power of his Spirit. Maybe our hearts need to be broken open to receive the love he gives so freely.
You let your guard down, Luke dismantled your defenses and you dared to love him, to let him love you. In doing so you became vulnerable to pain, this pain, the pain you feel now that he has gone to a new place to live, a great place, a beautiful place, a place of wonder that will fascinate him – but not here with you anymore. Now that your hearts are broken open, let the Lord’s love come in. It has the power to transform your heartbreak into new life.
Luke was a vehicle for the Lord’s unconditional transforming love. It was a light that shown from his face. I don’t think I will ever again sing the song “this little light of mine” without thinking of Luke. The Gospel light shone brightly in him, all around the neighborhood, never hidden under a bushel, and never to be blown out. It lives on in him forever in heaven and it lives here right now in each one of us. Let it shine through your tears.