It came so non-chalantly, in an email wrapped in one of my dearest friend’s names, thought possibly to simply be a well awaited hello. But fateful words have a way of carrying the weight of heaven with them…you read them, and unlike almost anything else, you feel your heart go.
My dear friend Chris Gaston, whom I met while in Scotland last semester serving at Re:Hope: Next Generation Church, died yesterday.
I found myself mingling in and out of tears of both joy and lament. But if there is one thing that I will never forget about Chris…other than the Irish kiss he gave me square on the lips/cheek for my going-away party in November, it will be his matter-of-fact sense that life ought to be enjoyed. He overcame more than most of us will ever deal with and harbored a Love that we all felt priviledged to take refuge in from time to time.
You could always be yourself with Chris…and you liked who you were…you felt at peace with who God made you to be when he was around.
He will forever be in my heart…my good friend, the guy that kissed me (teary cry), the Irishman I first dreamt out loud with…today I celebrate his life…for where he peers down from right now is a place my heart can only glimpse during my time here on earth. I confidently confess, as I shared in life with him for a few month’s time, I glimpsed what he now calls home…for through Chris, heaven looked back at me and smiled.
I can’t be in Glasgow to be with all those he had to leave, teary eyed no doubt. But if I were there I would fly straight over to N. Ireland and give him the simplest and dearest of benedictions my heart could conjure…after all, if you knew Chris you would agree, he was so very easy to Love. I suppose in this way he was often thought of as a heart’s constant companion, which I imagine is why such an event as his parting takes us all by tears.
So…from Portland, Oregon I offer Chris this Irish benediction in remembering a life well lived. I expect to see you again my dear brother in Christ…smiling and ready to Love through your infamous hugs as usual.
We do not stand at his grave and weep,
For he is not there, he does not sleep.
We do not stand at his grave and cry.
For he whispers agog…
“I am not there, I did not die!” (in an Irish accent)
1 Corinthians 15…We declare…‘Chris’ death is swallowed up in Christ’s victory! If this is not true death then tell me, where is your victory over him as he looks on from heaven’s vantage? Where death is your pain and sting you confidently sought him with?’
You have failed death, and you have been long abandoned and found wanting…for Chris was marked and set aside long before you plotted against him. He was branded royalty far before you ever thought to reach for him…and now…He looks on, saved, strong and with every tear you ever brought his way having been dried.
For Christ wiped away every tear from his eyes. He stole back what was always His, His Chris, and he has taken Chris and his heart and new body to a place we can only glimpse this side of salvation…that is if we’re blessed enough to have someone like Chris staring back at us.
And so, in true Irish fashion…stirring up the blessed Gaelic roots of old, I send Chris a hello from of us all…on this day when we celebrate his life and his Love…we send him a hug…the same hugs he so freely gave to us during his time here…a hug that we know confidently makes its way all the way to the Irish part of heaven…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Oh the pipes were calling…but one day soon we will all meet our blessed Boatman to ferry us back to our carrickfergus… down the mountainside…back to you.
I Love you Chris, I did not deserve to have you grace my life for even as short a time as we shared, and I will see you again, in all the splendors of heaven…expecting a hug.