By Joanie Butman
While attending my friend Erin’s funeral last week, I thought of last week’s post about Ron Burton’s legacy of love. Though Erin never enjoyed professional status as an athlete, she too was a GIANT of faith in her family and her community. Like Ron, she left a legacy of love, which I witnessed as her family and friends honored her. She may have been a tiny woman, but she had a BIG heart. Her legacy of love was described as her ‘afterglow’ (rooted in her unwavering faith), leaving a trail of light wherever she went – one that won’t fade with time but will be carried on through those she left behind.
I’ve been blessed to enjoy my in-law’s own version of afterglow at the beach every summer. They weren’t demonstrable in their affections, but they created a ‘sandbox’ where the family returns to every year sharing love, laughter and lobsta!! Without the gift of this central hub, many relatives would never have the opportunity to get to know each other as we are spread across the country. The ease of pace here allows for relaxed conversation and a much-needed respite from electronics, making us more present in the moment. Paul and Elinor may not have realized it (or maybe they did), but they created fertile ground for familial love to blossom and endure. I will be forever grateful and honor them by continuing the tradition for the next generation.
Though the constancy of this place is available to all of us, there are some who choose not to take advantage of their gift. The same can be said of Christ’s afterglow. His never-ending trail of light, love and grace is available to all who choose to believe. His is the ultimate love legacy that we’ve been instructed to share with others. You don’t have to possess any particular abilities other than availability and willingness to shine God’s love into a dark world. You do it by the way you live and ultimately, by the way you die. Erin is a perfect example. Her husband described her as the poster child of human kindness and that her love was like a perfume she wore.
Dear Erin planned her final goodbye taking care of every detail of the service. She faced death the same way she faced life – fearlessly. She was a warrior in many ways but never more so than in her prayer life. In one of our last conversations she promised she would be praying for me in Heaven. It was so typical of her – always looking out for others.
Funerals always compel me to consider the type of legacy I’m creating. Christ’s command to love others as He loves usis a tall order and impossible without His help. Blessedly, there are titans of faith like Erin who lead by example – quietly and without fanfare. She’d be the first to point out that it was her deep faith and life-long commitment to Christ that generated her afterglow. We, too, can choose to bask in Christ’s love, letting it shine through us into the lives of others.
As I was praying for an ending to this essay, Erin must have heard me because just then one of my ‘littles’ arrived bearing gifts – a series of message hearts with the words Serenity, Joy, Grace and Choose Happy painted on them, words that capture the essence of Erin. The largest one displayed the following inscription, Hope Shines Brightly. That was Erin’s message in life and death. Regardless of her circumstances, she always chose hope, and we can too. As it says in Hebrews 6:19, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Dedicated to Erin Bazner Noonan
August 22, 1947 – July 17, 2019