Kind, joyful, loving, affectionate, caring – no, I’m not describing one of my Seeing Eye puppies. Those are the words that come to mind (immediately) when I think of a friend who passed away recently. His name was Sebastian, although we all called him Flory. He passed away at 67 years old. He wasn’t supposed to live even a few hours due to a head injury sustained at birth. But he didn’t just live, he made other’s lives better for knowing him.
His injury resulted in serious disabilities. The doctors said he would never walk or talk, but he learned to walk, though not without difficulty. And he would talk your ear off if you’d let him. He only had the use of one arm, but that didn’t stop him from giving and receiving hugs…lots of hugs. It was hard to have a bad day when Flory was around.
I made the very judgmental mistake of thinking his funeral would be short and probably not well attended. The last few years, he was wheelchair-bound and living in a nursing home. Even though I had somewhere else to be, I felt compelled to say goodbye to Flory and hug his family. It didn’t take long to realize how wrong I was about his funeral. What was I thinking? I clearly wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of Flory’s hugs, cards, and prayers. Even Elvis was part of it.
When it came time for people to share remembrances of Flory, one after another popped up and shared a story. It could have gone on all day, but I think others, like myself, would just have echoed the same sentiments. Often, when a person dies, their family and friends tend to only remember the good things about them, and that is what they share at funerals. But with Flory, there were only good things to remember because that’s who he was.
His sister told a story of how their mother would put Flory to bed and sit with him while he said his prayers. At first, he spent about five minutes in prayer. But as he got older and his prayer list grew, she would sit with him for an hour and a half! He had to pray for everyone he knew who had a need. I was reminded that with each of his hugs came the question, “How are you doing?” And he really wanted to know. I didn’t know that he had great recall ability and would remember each person and whatever they shared with him, and he prayed for them.
Flory was never able to drive a car or take a long walk or pick up a sandwich with both hands. He never held a job, but he would help with any task as much as he could. One of his “jobs” was to sharpen all the pencils in our church pews. I can’t watch my granddaughter reach for a pencil without thinking of Flory. He never felt sorry for himself. He knew one day his body would be whole, but he lived fully in the body he was given. He loved Jesus, and that was enough. Even in his weakened state, he would have a friend wheel him down the street to the skate park where he would hand out tracks, give hugs, and share the love of Jesus. Flory never owned anything of material value. Yet he was a rich man, and he left us all a legacy to follow.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:26,27 ESV)