Jim… and the Value of a Life

Jim was buried under a light rain. The white powdered soil that covered him spoke of the purity of his soul. His friends and family gave glowing tribute to him as a modest man who never spoke ill of anyone, who conveyed love to all he met, who loved nature, who loved God, and who was a lover of Israel.

Consistently, in times of parting from those people who impact our lives through the goodness and purity of their heart, I’m compelled to reflect on what’s really valuable in life.

Jim was only 53. To all appearances, healthy. He exercised daily, ate well, and didn’t hold grudges. Who knows? How is it that I am a “robust” 72 and someone almost 20 years younger has already come to the end of his earthly journey? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know for sure what determines the length of our days. But I do know that the impact Jim had and the record of his life, the quality of life that he left, made a deep mark on people in Israel.

During the memorial, I looked out on those gathered around the grave. Many of those who came to honor Jim were residents of Kibbutz Hanita, joined by members of Katzir Asher, the Messianic congregation in Akko where Jim served with love and devotion. This remote kibbutz was the place he lived and loved, a place surprisingly close to the border of Lebanon, just under the ridge that divides our countries. I got there by going up and up and up a winding road, arriving at a hillside evergreen forest. People stood scattered in the wooded cemetery with umbrellas, like so many wild flowers, attesting to the beauty of this man’s life. It left a permanent picture etched on my mind. I wish that I could have pulled out a camera and taken a picture, but it seemed insensitive so I didn’t. I can still see them all clearly – silent witnesses.

How do we measure the value of someone’s life? Is it the length of years? Or is it the substance of who they are? I’m really interested in this. Because whatever days I have left to live on this earth, I long to have that kind of effect on others. I pray that I will – through personal interaction, through the written word, in whatever manner I can – project and reflect the goodness of my Messiah.

God, help us all to take this deep, tender, and oh-so-practical lesson from Jim: that what we give unselfishly, the flavor of our interactions with people, how we spend our days, our time, money, energy – this is what counts. To give our life away in the interest of others, this is what blesses, what helps, what supports, and what glorifies our Shepherd King.

This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, March 2020, and reposted with permission.