Last year, I read the essays and letters of one of my favorite poets, Joyce Kilmer. The most moving of these were the ones he wrote to his friends and family while he was in France, fighting in the first world war. Besides the touching love and affection for his family, his courage in the face of death, and his deep faith, the thing that I remember most from these letters is his many mentions of the book he was going to write when he came home. He thought about it often, was planning it and thinking about it while he suffered through the atrocities of war. He never came home to write it, however, because he died bravely in battle on July 30th, 1918.
Please forgive me for a somber topic, but somber topics are on my heart of late. Life, death, how we live, and how we die... My mother-in-law, Nancy Hough, has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. She is often in a great deal of pain, and, while the prognosis changes with the results of each test, we have been told we need to hope for a miracle.
Nancy, who we know as “Mama,” is a writer and an artist. She, like Joyce Kilmer, may never have the chance to finish the book that she has been working on and thinking about for years. But, like that other poet, she has faith that our work does not end with this life. She believes that we are children of God, and are made to praise him in this life and the next. It is important to remember, for those of us who have a longer time left in this waiting room of earth, that the work we can accomplish now is only a shadow of what we will accomplish in heaven. If art is a way to praise God on earth and share in his act of creation, there is no reason to believe that it will cease in heaven—rather, there is much reason to believe that it will go on, perfected.
I wonder what masterful works of art Joyce Kilmer is creating in eternity. If I regret that he died before he finished the work he thought would be his masterpiece, it is because my own faith is weak. I think if he decided to descend from heaven to have a word with me, he might playfully smack my ear and say, “You fool! Why should you regret that my work can now be greater, clearer, and more beautiful than anything I wrote on earth? Don't you know how hard it was to write before? I'm glad I don't have to deal with that blasted writers' block anymore...”
Maybe Mama will get to read that masterpiece before I will. Maybe she will be able soon to create her own, unhampered by time and trials. Or maybe not. Like Kilmer, I believe that miracles happen. Sometimes God will show his might by healing the sick. And sometimes he will show his gentleness by giving us peace and surrounding us with love.
Please join me in praying for both.