“Love (Mr. Roger’s Post)”
As a quick introduction, I will go ahead and warn you that this will be the longest post that I have ever written. The ironic part of this is that the man whose life inspired it would tell me, “Sarah, remember your word limit. 250-350 words. 400 max!” Well, Mr. Roger, no matter where in Heaven you are while reading this post—whether from a comfy couch of clouds with The Biggest Loser playing on the TV or while wading out at the duck blind (how about that resurrection body!)—this is what I have to say to you. There is no way that I can write about you or in even reference to your life in less than 400 words! Not even 1000 words can express all the praise that your life deserves… So without any further ado….
Tonight while sitting in my bed under strands of Christmas lights, I’m finally finding the courage to write about the passing of a man that I have loved. Ever since 6th grade when his son, Roger, and I became best friends, I have thought of this precious family as my very own. Filled with genuine compassion and even a streak of mischief, they always welcomed me with love shared through their open arms. After all, their hugs always wrapped me up and seemed to never let go.
Although Mr. Roger was not my dad, I saw him in this light often; I knew he loved me just as I loved him. And even though I tried with all of my heart, I found it hard to rejoice at the funeral service. Instead, I cried until I couldn’t breathe as I watched this beloved family of mine walk down the long aisle behind a casket draped in beautiful, cream fabric with gold embroidery. From the balcony, I wanted to reach down and take the hands of Ms. Nancy, Lizzie, Will, “Little Rog,” and “Bubbles,” but instead, I watched through eyes blinded by tears. Tears of pain, tears of sadness and loss, yet I shed other tears, as well…
Tears of respect as I watched each member of the Waynick family seat themselves in the pew, tears as I listened to the oldest daughter, Elizabeth, speak of her father and share words of his wisdom, tears as I wrote these words down, praying that I would never forget them, tears as I watched Roger welcome her back to her seat… Tears as the desperate cry, “Oh, Sweet Rog…” escaped from my lips while watching him walk to the podium himself, tears as I watched my best friend tug at the sleeves of his suit jacket and I whispered a silent prayer for his strength, tears as I heard his voice catch while speaking of his dad…a hunting buddy… a fishing buddy…and tears of submissive trust that everything in life has a purpose: I cried many tears, many tears.
While this pain of loss waged war inside me, there was something even greater that was not willing to lose this haughty battle.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” 1 John 4:16-18
So I hugged my knees as close to my body as I could, making one more attempt to keep it from frantically heaving while my mom wrapped her arms around me. There was a place in my heart that wanted to feel empty. It was the place where someone’s wise counsel, inspiration, encouragement, and belief in me filled my heart, pressing against its seams. My mom’s fingers held tight to my arm, reminding me of the strength we must have to press on.
As the pastor read Psalm 100 and we rose to sing “Amazing Grace,” I decided that death would not have its victory here. I would not let death take away from me the love and precious memories that I had with Mr. Roger. I was fighting back the fear of death, the fear of life without this beloved man, but Perfect Love began to rise, determined to cast out my fears.
In those moments, it was evident that death was losing its sting. God was, is, and forever will be love, and He held us in His hands that dreary Saturday. Even though the pain was more real than any I have ever felt before, God’s presence was abundant, filling the sanctuary as the light filtering through stained glass windows. And in the voices of the hundreds that came in love and remembrance of a man that lived each day with godly purpose and intention, God’s presence was abundant, as well. Each day, Mr. Roger lived with love and grace—the husband to a beautiful wife with one of the most compassionate hearts I have ever known, the father to four incredible children that I find myself blessed to call my friends daily. He even lived as a “rascal,” but most of all, Mr. Roger always lived filled with “Sonshine” that shone through the twinkle of love and mischief in his eyes, a brilliant light that shone on the faces of each person he met.
Today marks a week since the day I frantically sought among the crowded Narthex of Brentwood United Methodist Church—a sea of black jackets and white tissues—for the faces of the family I hold dear to my heart. And though my to-do lists and planner would say this past week went “back to being normal”—work, class, meetings, etc.—my heart begs to differ…
While I cannot even imagine the struggle that Ms. Nancy, Elizabeth, Will, Roger, and Katie are facing right now, I do know this: God has great plans for them. For some, this tragedy would break them, but not the Waynicks. God has given them hearts and a home that has been filled abundantly with love. They will make it through this hard time as an even stronger family, always living in memory and honor of their loved one, our most loved Roger Scott Waynick.
There are many times that I wish I had better words to say to comfort the Waynick family through this time of grief. I wish that I had words that could better express my grief yet also encourage them to grow even more in faith. What I have come to realize though, is that neither life nor all the realities of it on this earth are always describable, measurable, or even fathomable. But there is something else that follows this description.
God is love. He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, and every aspect of His nature—“I Am”—is characterized by His love. He and His love are indescribable, immeasurable, nor can we fathom their significance and jurisdiction over all. We cannot be separated from it; not even death can keep us from His love (Romans 8:35-39).
There are many things that I don’t know, but I do know this: God is good. God is always good, and He is faithful, even when we are tempted to believe that He isn’t. In this world, we will have tribulation, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We will feel so burdened that we will despair of life itself, but all of this will happen so that we will learn to rely on God, the one that raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). We must never lose sight of these truths of our faith. With all of my heart, I long for the day that He has promised will come to those that have been steadfast in trusting Him, even in the hardest times.
With this, I will now close. Revelation 21 tells us that one day, God will dwell among us. He will be our God. In His lap, we will sit as He wipes away every single tear that falls from our eyes, even the tears that we wish would come, but won’t. “Shhh, my sweet child,” He will whisper in our ear, “death no longer has a place here. Mourning, crying, and pain shall be no more for all the former things have passed away…” (Revelation 21:3-6).
To the dear Waynick family, feel our Heavenly Father wrapping His great arms around you during this time. Hear Him whispering in your ear words of love and comfort. He loves you so much just as He loves your dad, your husband, Ms. Nancy. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He loves you all so much. I cannot say this enough: He is love, and He loves you. Draw near to him and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
So to all of us—whether walking in the valley of the shadow of death or in the uncertainly of the future—let’s have faith because God is faithful, have hope because God is the trustworthy Almighty, and have love because God is love.
I love you, Mr. Roger. Thank you for encouraging me to write and for always believing in me. All of the advice you have shared with me–whether about life, love, and our passion of writing–I will cherish. I will keep the promise that I made to you… You know what I’m talking about ;). Thank you for loving me.