On the top of a hill overlooking the city of Encinitas is a quiet little park. From there you can see the ocean, feel the breeze, and find a place to sit and reflect as you take in the view. There is a bench there that has been provided in loving memory of Kathleen Preston. I don't know her story, or the stories of the lives her life touched in the 52 years that she lived. Clearly she had made an impact in the life of the person who had dedicated this bench in her honor, for whom she had been "light and love beyond eternity." This was more than simply a park accessory, this was (perhaps just one part of) a memorial to someone who had lived and loved and changed the lives of those around her. But this was not just a memorial to the life she had lived and shared, it was also a means by which she could continue to bless others - as is reflected in the inscription on the plaque "bless those who rest here."
Though I did not know her, as I sat on her bench doing some reflections of my own, I thought about the significance of her life, the impact she had had, and the continuing blessing her legacy provided through those who had known her by offering a place to find rest and blessing as they continued to honor and celebrate who she was. I was blessed by her, and by resting there.
Just the day before my wife and I sat in the living room of an old friend, also 52 years old, who in his own way was contemplating the issue of legacy. This was still fresh in my mind as I sat on Kathleen's bench. While we had not kept in touch as much as we would have liked over the years, we were being more intentional now. A couple of months ago he had been diagnosed with a serious health issue, which, according to those most familiar with this particular disease process, makes it unlikely that he will live for much more than a year. We hope and pray that he will be one of those who beats the statistics and continues to have a long and full life in spite of what he is struggling with now. There is hope. But there are also the questions that come with the contemplation of how you navigate the time you have left, particularly when it appears that your time here may be shorter than you had anticipated. His has been a life well lived, and has touched and impacted the lives of others in powerful and meaningful ways (mine included), and he feels good in his relationship with God through all of this. And yet, how do you begin the capture the impact, and celebrate the legacy of 52 years of life, and then live well however much time we have left? Those were some of the questions with which I sat on Kathleen's bench thinking about my friend.
The reason I was in the park and sitting on the bench in the first place, was that the pastoral staff had taken a couple of days to be together to rest, reflect on our ministry, and be open to where God might be wanting to take us in the weeks and months ahead. The passage of scripture that we were reflecting on during our time alone that afternoon was Matthew 11:27-30 (Message).
At the very heart of Who Jesus was, and what He came to reveal and share -- the legacy He leaves -- is the invitation to pause long enough to come away, find rest, to recover our lives. . . To sit on benches like Katherine's and be blessed. . . To sit in the living rooms of people we care about, enjoying the lives we have to share with each other, however long any of us have to do that. . . And perhaps, for this 52 year old pastor, to be more attentive and intentional about learning the unforced rhythms of grace, learning to live more freely, lightly and fully, as I watch how He does it, and try to follow that lead. . . And that whatever legacy there might be when everything is said and done, that it might be one that reflects that kind of life.
There is a lot more to think about, sitting on this bench. What a blessing that it is here!