Today I went to the memorial service for a man I’ve never met. He was the friend of a very close friend from San Francisco and I went to support my friend, if that makes sense. The man who passed away, or transitioned from death to life as I like to say, is gone too soon, too young, and under difficult circumstances. He was imperfect, which is to say, he was human. As are we all.
The overarching theme of everything that was said throughout the service and by everyone who knew him was about how much he loved Jesus and knew how much Jesus loved him. It was a beautifully well done service that respected his wishes and the wishes of his family and still communicated the essence of this man’s life to those like me who may not have known him well.
I held it together for the most part, until we got to the end of the service when the closing hymn was “I Love To Tell The Story”. I grew up on hymns and I didn’t need any word sheets for any of the songs, but I paid attention to this one because it seemed new to me today. It was the most beautiful wrap-up to a service honoring the life of an imperfect person who loved Jesus and did his best to follow Him. That’s when the tears came. It was a mix of overwhelming sadness for this loss and joy for the legacy this man left for his friends, family and daughter.
I love to tell the story of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love
I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.
I love to tell the story, how pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet!
I love to tell the story, for some have never heart
the message of salvation from God’s own holy word
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
I’ll sing the old, old story that I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old, story of Jesus and his love.
This hymn was written by Katherine Hankey, the daughter of a wealthy British banker. She was a passionate bible study teacher and gave every dime from the proceeds of her publishing to international missions. She wrote this and other hymn texts during an illness during which she was bed-ridden for almost a year. The man whose memorial I attended battled various illnesses and yet was able to communicate the love of Christ for the world in everything he did.
The verse that really stood out to me today was the third. Often we think of this hymn as encouraging us to tell the story to those who’ve never heard it. But the third verse reminds us that those of us who know it best still hunger and thirst to hear it again. We can hear it again in the lives of people like this man who brought it with him everywhere.
I thought a lot about my life and what my legacy will be when I transition. If it’s even a fraction as positive as this man’s story, I will be perfectly happy. I’ve already informed my family that this song will be played at my memorial. It’s how I want to be remembered as I hope my life tells the old, old story.