I was delighted to find out that TIME magazine chose Pope Francis as their person of the year in 2013. And it got me thinking...who would I choose? A family member who has impacted me? An extraordinary person in the news? A hero in the faith? A child who has taught me the importance of the simple things? Many of these would be wonderful choices...but without a doubt, I would choose my friend, Warren.
I met Warren not too many months ago at church. He sat in a wheelchair, unable to speak, but Warren so clearly spoke with his eyes. Warren was one of those people who always locked a look with me at church, even though our congregation is large and many people glance past others as they come and go. This man, about 60 years young, was vibrant and so relational. Warren, always accompanied by his parents, carried with him a gentle mood of joy, evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life. His body may have been broken on earth, but his soul was abundantly alive. It's hard to put words to the way in which he touched me.
Then one morning we got an email. Warren suddenly fell ill and his body could fight no longer. He was placed in hospice care at our local hospital. My parents and I decided we couldn't waste time. We rushed there that morning, greeted by pumpkin colored walls happily matching the season of thanksgiving which was around the corner. Upon entering his room, we met his sweet sister and mother. He was clearly in pain and the nurses tried to make him comfortable. He moved in excitement to see us...and I stepped forward to speak with him. Then I opened my lungs, quietly, to sing one of my favorite Hillsong hymns, "His Glory Appears." I suddenly felt the glory of angels surrounding us as time stood still. Warren, in his aching and agony, reached his hand out to me through the hospital bed bars, shaking and withered. I held his arm and continued to sing. His shaking calmed and he was still, serene. Tears filled our eyes.
We found out Warren went to be with Jesus the next morning. I am quite sure angels ushered him into paradise and he walked right into his new body, healed and whole, dancing and speaking for the first time in his life. All questions answered, all pain reconciled in perfection and beauty. I await the day when we meet again in glory, and I know we'll be singing again and holding hands, but this time in the vivid presence of the living God. Yes, without a doubt, I vote Warren person of the year. His bravery and calm joy have impacted my life forever. His life was sacred, dignified, heroic.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)