For Gary, who turned around…

11 Mar

This week I’m dedicating my blog to Gary, an ordinary man who lived a life of extraordinary kindness. Most people who read this page didn’t know him, but that’s ok. I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but I’m touched by his spirit and I think you can be as well.

Gary was a quiet, unassuming man who was quick to help and slow to anger. His face displayed a curious mix of inner peace and ancient pain. He knew how to listen. Anyone who stopped to talk with him walked away thinking, “Gee, that was a lot more than I meant to tell him about myself, but it’s ok because he likes me anyway.”

People were drawn to him, particularly people who were sinking in despair.

That’s because Gary knew what it was like to be on the bottom. At one point in his life, he sank so far down into a murky pit that the walls started caving in over him, and that could have been the end of his story. Instead, one day he looked up and saw an outstretched hand against a small piece of light. He grabbed hold and began what would be a long, arduous climb to freedom. It wasn’t an easy journey. The walls of the pit were slippery; what few foot-holds he could find were so sharp they left scars; and there were people still at the bottom who pulled at his legs, trying to drag him back down. He never would have made it out if that hand hadn’t remained tightly clasped around his. It gave him hope and encouragement, and he knew whoever was behind it would never give up on him.

Eventually, he was pulled into the light, where he lay for a while gasping, joyfully tasting the clean air, and grateful for a second chance.

Many of us, when we’re pulled out of our darkness, dust ourselves off and say, “Whew! That was close!” Sometimes we even remember to thank our rescuer before we go on our way. We rarely look back.

Gary, however, once he caught his breath, turned back to the pit, planted his feet firmly, and reached out his hand. He set up camp there, on the edge of darkness, where he spent the rest of his days pulling people to safety and encouraging them, fighting with all he had to keep them from falling back in. He never forgot that outstretched hand.

The church was packed yesterday for Gary’s funeral service. I was amazed to see how many people were there, people whom Gary had touched in just a few short years. But there’s more to the story, because Gary taught them more than just how to climb out of the darkness. By his example, he taught them to turn around and reach back down. Today there are many, many people camped at the edge, feet planted, hands extended.

As I see it, Gary’s legacy is a ripple of kindness extending light outward across a pond of darkness. And in the end, the light will win.


6 Responses to “For Gary, who turned around…”

  1. Kathleen Grunden March 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    What an absolutely beautiful tribute to Gary. What a blessing he was to so many people. Thank you.

  2. Phanalphie March 11, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    You’re right. I didn’t know him but your introduction was so beautiful. I know people like him, that joined him at the edge. Thank you for such a wonderful tribute and reminder that…in the end, the light will win.

  3. Joe March 11, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    What a great story, makes one feel that he knew Gary, the life he lived and the results of climbing out of the pit and a journey waiting for anyone.

  4. patty March 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Nicely written Rose. He always had his hand out to the next person . He felt he needed to pass on exactly what what given to him. No questions no judgement. Just the hope. So simple but sometimes I think forget it is just that outstretched hand. May we all remember to do this as a way of life as vagary

    • pjoy93 March 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Thank you Patty,
      You and your family are in our prayers. And thanks to all who added such uplifting comments, and to the Holy Spirit who whispers. To God be the Glory.

  5. Ed Speare March 14, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    You hit it out of the park on this one! Thanks for an outstandingly well written tribute that captured the essence of our friend Gary in just a few paragraphs.

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