In May 2017, when we had a big Legacy Retreat in Orlando, I got to know one of the families, the House family, pretty closely. We had four days with the House family, and they flew by like they always do. We do these retreats trusting that the impact is not only for four days but goes far beyond that, and with this family, I got to see that lasting impact in a powerful way. Matt House died less than two months after the Legacy Retreat, and there were memorial services in Texas where he lived and Minnesota where he grew up, and I was able to go to the Minnesota one. And what a funeral experience it was!
- They played a video clip of Matt speaking to people at his funeral, showing great intentionality.
- There were video clips of each of his kids saying things they remembered about their dad, then a clip of Mary, Matt’s wife, reading from Consider It Pure Joy and talking about how much the refiner’s fire image has meant to their family.
- Throughout the service, there was lots of laughter and fun memories. There was grief at the loss, but there was also so much joy-filled faith and hope.
- From my balcony seat, I saw the Douglas family we served at the same Legacy Retreat, then I also saw the Figuerola family next to them!
- Michelle Figuerola had organized a gift basket for the House family from all the other families at their Legacy Retreat. She initially thought she’d mail it, but they decided to drive to the funeral, all the way from Chicago, and deliver it in person. One of the highlights was a quilt with family pictures from their retreat.
After the service, we hung out at the reception for hours: telling stories, sharing memories, and simply enjoying being together. We were the last ones there, lingering as long as we could and only leaving because other schedules limited our time. Maybe “fun” isn’t quite the right word for a funeral, but there was a lot of joy, even though it was a funeral.
This continues to amaze me as I reflect on it: a woman who just lost her husband, kids who just lost their dad, a family dealing with ALS, and a family facing kidney cancer, plus me, were brought together because of a loved one’s death – and we had a good time… That’s strange! That is just strange – strange in the very, very best way! It was a tremendous example of the power and beauty of the Inheritance of Hope family, made possible by the power and beauty of the hope in Christ that inspires IoH and that it is our mission to share.
Despite the reason for our being there, this was a fantastic IoH family reunion. It was so rich, so good, that I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to have more of these, and how it would be even better to have more people there to enjoy them. (Deric envisions us in fact doing a reunion event within the next few years.)
Even more than that, it made me look forward to the ultimate family reunion, the reunion when Matt will be at the table with us, making it even livelier. When Chris Douglas won’t have his speech restrained by ALS but could gab and joke as easily as his wife and kids. When the Figuerola family has all their hard times in the rear-view mirror and can celebrate with full hearts. When the families we’ve served are restored, and our full team can come together. When we all can enjoy each other’s company, as one big family, without restraint or disease or dis-ease of any kind, without our time being limited, without having to go separate ways eventually. And without the occasion that brings us together being a death but instead life – fullness of life in God’s immediate, uninterrupted presence.
Revelation 21:3-4 speaks of this kind of reunion:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with humanity. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In one sense what we do at Legacy Retreats is “just” a few days. But if we do it the way Lara talked about so well yesterday – love always, serve first, listen well – then the impact of what we do here lasts – it lasts all the way to the funeral, it lasts even beyond the funeral, it lasts… always. The impact of what we start here – a God-centered, death-overcoming family – will be fulfilled by God. God will dwell with us, and we will be His people, God's family. That reunion inspires hope!
Aaron is Inheritance of Hope's COO. He originally shared this devotional with the May 2018 Orlando Legacy Retreat® team.