Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Life of Courage and Beauty

Summer Dale passes away


“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” -- Kahlil Gibran

One of the greatest gifts and honors of being a minister is the privilege of planning and leading memorial services.  The chance to be with a family during their time of sorrow and grief and celebrating a life with tears and laughter is some of the most precious and sacred work I have ever done.  I say the words from Gibran at every memorial service I lead.  To remind myself, and more importantly those who have gathered, that the more we love, the more we grieve.   I believe these words with all my heart and yet sometimes they are so, so hard to hold onto.

On Sunday an amazing young woman, Summer Dale, lost her battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 16.  I met Summer, her twin brother Jordan, mom Lynne and dad Al, seven or eight years ago when they began attending the congregation I served in Atlanta.  I didn’t get to know her very well but her beauty and joy radiated everywhere she went.  When I left the congregation six years ago I took a little piece of Summer and her family with me.  A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with cancer.   A child facing cancer is a heartbreaking reality of life that is beyond comprehension.   It shouldn’t happen.  What do we do when it does?

Rage at God or life for many of us.  Summer chose to start Team Summer.  As the news video on the link above describes, she raised money to help other kids with cancer have a little happier life.  I suspect that’s not what most of us would have done.  It’s impossible to read about Summer’s life, or watch the video and see the smiles on those kids faces - and Summer’s too - and not be deeply moved and inspired.  How could someone so young be so courageous, so giving, so full of love and life?  The last few months I have been around the world visiting sacred sites of men and women who have changed the world.  I have interviewed people who are integrating spirituality and entrepreneurship.   I have created a word for those who have been called, inspired by a spark of divinity, to serve something greater than themselves and create something new that changes the world.

Summer Dale was a calltrepreneur.  She changed the world with her joy, her courage, her love.  She inspired those who knew her and those she never met.  Just like St. Francis and St. Clare and any great calltrepreneur.  Her life was far too short but the impact she made was greater than some who live four or five times as long.   

On Sunday I will be attending her memorial service and I will laugh and cry with those who knew her and knew of her as we celebrate her life.  I will try to remember Gibran’s words between our shared tears.  I will send all the love and prayers I can muster to her family and friends whose lives will never be the same because she is gone and even more so because she lived. 

 Summer told her family and friends that cancer was a blessing because it brought so many wonderful people and experiences into her world.   As death approached, she asked them to promise her they would let people know “I’m not scared of this.  I am not afraid.” Thank you Summer for your life, your example of how to live and die.   May we find the courage and grace that lived in Summer to face the comparatively small challenges we face in our lives and be not afraid to make a difference in the world. That was Summer's delight, let it be ours as well.

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