Faith Stories: Reflections on a Life
I wrote this reflection in the months following my husband’s death in 2015. I was recently re-reading it and decided that the takeaway lessons might be a blessing to others and I ought to share it despite its personal nature – Kathy.
It is ironic. Bryan and I used to laugh and I’d give him a hard time because he couldn’t smile for posed pictures. Almost all of his photographs show him with a sort of half smile that we both never liked. Or at least I think he didn’t; I know I didn’t. So following Bryan’s death, the most common comment from people was how they enjoyed his smile. Too bad I didn’t realize it while he was alive (and I don’t think he did either), but Bryan’s smile apparently made people happy. The irony makes me smile. People who knew Bryan and people who barely knew him told me how they appreciated his warm, genuine big smile when he greeted you. One person told me that his smile lit up his face.
Bryan had difficulties in his early life that shaped who he was. He had an undiagnosed learning disability that caused many of his school years to be traumatic (his word). The trauma contributed to his regret of not having a college degree, sometimes a feeling a hopelessness concerning job possibilities, alcoholism, and social anxiety. But these things, plus his general personality, led him to be a person empathetic toward people that others might not notice. He was always kind and started a conversation with the cashier in the checkout line. He noticed the person seating customers at the diner and the waiter or waitress serving him food. He was a big tipper. The last couple of years of his life he started a Saturday morning ritual of eating breakfast out at a diner – either Louie’s near LSU or Christina’s downtown diner. I only went with him occasionally as I like to take advantage of my only day of the week to sleep in. I didn’t know this but Bryan was getting to know the staff at these diners and I am told he would tip big occasionally when he heard there was a special need. He quietly picked up the tab for someone when he noticed they didn’t have enough money to pay.
Bryan had a strong faith. But he didn’t talk about it much and wasn’t obvious about his ministry. In fact, in recent years, his ministry was more about supporting me in the background. He went about using his gifts of generosity and kindness in small ways, never telling anyone. He wasn’t one to talk about himself or bring attention to himself. I have been much more overt in my ministry, choosing to practice and share my faith in community most often. I had thoughts many times that I wished Bryan would practice his faith the way I did. After his death, upon learning how he impacted lives in his quiet, unassuming way, it was more apparent than ever that we all practice our faith differently. There is no “right” way.
- It is cliche’ but apparently very true that just a smile goes a long way. It brings joy even when we don’t realize it.
- Tell someone when there is something about them that you like, no matter how small or unimportant it might seem. Don’t lose the opportunity to let that person know.
- We all have unique gifts. We don’t all practice our faith the same way. That is okay. Appreciate others for who they are and how they do things. Assume that God knows and is leading those who believe in Him.
- We all have our “crosses” to bear. Never assume you know what burden another person is carrying. Find ways to connect with others where they are.