525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes—how do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife—how do you measure a year, a year in the life? How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of love. 525,600 minutes! 525,600 journeys to plan. 525,600 minutes—how can you measure the life of a woman or man?
These are the words to one of my favorite songs. It comes from the musical Rent. It came into my mind as I was thinking about what I would say today about George. George lived far more than 525,600 minutes. He lived more than 47 million minutes and there are all sorts of ways that we could remember and measure those minutes that he lived. We could remember the time he served in the military. We could remember the years he spent building and maintaining his business. We could remember his sense of humor. We could remember his funny stories. We could remember his love for the ocean and fishing. We could remember his clever inventions. These are all ways that we could measure the life of this man. But I think the real measure of George was his love—his love for his family and his love for God.
However, knowing that George had a long and good life, knowing that he is now in the arms of God and at peace, doesn't mean that we don't miss him today. Even if we have the strongest faith in the world, and know deep in our hearts that we will see George again, it doesn't mean that we don't feel pain and anguish over his death. For right now, in this moment, he isn't with us. We can't see him, touch him, smell him or hear him. He isn't here with his funny stories and wry sense of humor to make us laugh. And this is painful. Our tears are a gift from God to help us with these painful feelings. Every tear we shed for George is a testimony to him and to his life. Every tear we shed for George is a memory of what he meant in our lives. And when we remember George and we cry and we laugh over these memories we are reminded that though he might not be physically present, he is not lost to us. He is in our hearts. He is in our minds. He is in our very souls.
And as we realize that he is still present to us in our memories of him, we can remind ourselves that we will see him again, for George is now with God. St. Paul told us in his letter to the Romans that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." We may feel separate from God in this lifetime. We may feel separate from George in this lifetime. But we know that through Christ George has never been separate from God. That separation was always only an illusion, and the same is true for you and me.
I want to close with a story that Guy, George's son, shared with me and asked if I could share with all of you. It is the story of the waterbug.
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about with its friends. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily, it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.
"Look!" said one of the water bugs to another. "One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you suppose she is going?" Up, up, up it went slowly. Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn't return. "That's funny!" said one water bug to another. "Wasn't she happy here?" asked a second water bug. "Where do you suppose she went?" wondered a third. No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled.
Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. "I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why." "We promise," they said solemnly.
One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water, and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.
When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn't believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly.
Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by, the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were, scurrying about, just as he had been doing some time before. Then the dragonfly remembered the promise: "The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why."
Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water. "I can't return!" he said in dismay. "At least I tried, but I can't keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I'll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they'll understand what happened to me, and where I went." And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.
525,600 minutes how do you measure the life of a woman or a man? You measure it in love. Remember George's love for you and for God. Amen.