This past weekend, I was privileged to attend the visitation and funeral for Sean Gauley. There are many things I could say about the past weekend, and the funeral in particular. I commend to you what my brother has written as a wonderful reflection on those events. Seriously. Even if you don't finish reading this post; go read his.
Sean was an 18 year old college freshman who died from injuries sustained in a car accident while driving home from school for Christmas break. Besides being a student at Mississippi College, he was the son of Jim and RaeAnne Gauley; brother to 3 sweet siblings; an employee of Salsaritas; a young man who brought joy to those around him. (Must have learned something about that from his mom and dad.) His dad is a teacher and tutor and deacon who has lived and loved well. Sean was also a Christian; he loved Jesus and loved to share His love and shine His light to the people around him. From what I saw this weekend and have been hearing for the last month or so since the accident, Sean lived well and loved well. And the credit and glory for that go to the God that he served and loved; to the Savior who died to save him; to the Holy Spirit who lived in him.
What happens when a family who has lived well and loved well experiences great tragedy? Those who love and worship the same God come to their aid. Those loved by them rally around them. A church in Birmingham (where Sean ended up in the hospital) pastored by the dad of a Mississippi College student provided a place for the Gauleys to stay and provided food for them. Pastors, friends, loved ones from their home in Kentucky made the 5 hour drive from Owensboro to Birmingham to sit with them; cry with them; pray with them; remember with them; hug them; love them. People at home took care of their house and bills; Jim's responsibilities at the school were covered. The body of Christ functioned as the body of Christ! Salsaritas had a fundraiser day for the family when a percentage of sales went to support the Gauleys; they had their biggest day of sales in their history. Donations have poured into an account set up to help with bills and expenses.
And once Sean was gone from this earth, the outpouring continued. For four hours, a line of friends wrapped around half of the inside of a gym to wait to express love to the family on Friday night. It continued for another 2 hours on Saturday morning before the funeral. Some 750 people crammed into that gym to worship, to mourn, to laugh, to cry, to show love and support to the family. Nurses, so touched by the Gauley family's testimony during Sean's 27 days in the hospital, came to the funeral. From Birmingham. That pastor from the church in Birmingham was there. Students from Mississippi College came. Former students of Mr. Gauley came back. Another 450+ live streamed the funeral broadcast online. And that's certainly not everything, but I hope enough to give you an idea of how loved Sean and his family are.
The Gauleys and those who love them would be quick to remind us that we love because He first loved us. The power to live well and love well, comes from the Creator and Redeemer. And when we live such a life, full of suffering and sorrow as it is, we get to reap some of the benefits this side of heaven. I've seen the power of a life well-lived this weekend. And it makes me wonder.
Who will remember us when we're gone? What will they say about us? Who will rally around and support our families? What will it be like at our funerals? The answer lies in how we have lived, for whom we have lived, and the One who enables us to live and love well. Sean and the Gauleys, by God's grace, got it right. God help us to do the same.
Some miscellaneous musings from Pastor Aaron.
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