I live in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota is beautiful, with inviting beaches and a delightful climate. Sarasota is also the home of a large number of older adults – there are more adults over the age of 85 here than any other county in Florida. Thoughts of death are never far away. When my wife and I first moved here, one of my long-time friends teased, “Oh, Sarasota is ‘God’s waiting room.’”
Death is tough. It never comes on time. We want to hold it at arm’s length, at least for a little longer. We resist it with every fiber of our being. But today we are captured by death, because of the death of one whose love was strong and true. Scott Hauser lived faithfully and well – but not nearly long enough.
Death is tough. We embrace all kinds of strategies to shield ourselves. We refuse to acknowledge it, neglecting to write a will or assign power of attorney. We lose ourselves in work or family or hobbies, hoping it will pass by. Some of our tactics may be unusual or superstitious. We exercise with passion and take every vitamin, heading to the doctor at the first twinge or ache. Or we refuse to visit a hospital for any reason.
So it’s easy for us to think of life and death as equals and opposites, as cosmic competing powers, evenly balanced in unending struggle. But no, that’s not right. David Brooks preached at the National Cathedral a few weeks ago. He pointed to something quite different. “We see beauty,” he said, “and we follow beauty to God.” He spoke of the ladder of beauties described by Plato. Our experience of the beauty of people leads us to the beauty of ideas to the beauty of social justice and finally to “the ultimate beauty, which transcends time and space … God’s beauty.”
Scott Hauser was beautiful. In Scott, his wife Lara and their family, I see the beauty of God’s purpose. I see them rejoicing in goodness, serving others with commitment and courage. I see them rooted in gratitude, blessed to be a blessing.
Life for Scott was a joy. Life for Scott was and is the best kind of offering. “Consider life nothing but joy,” we read in James, “that you may be mature and complete.” That was Scott. That was Scott exactly.
I met Scott a decade ago when he was a resident in ministry. We were colleagues. Day after day, Scott would point to joy. I would hear him say, “This is the best day of my life.” At first I thought he was joking. Then I thought he was insipid. But finally I wised up. I found myself wondering, “What will this day become if I live with joy and gratitude?”
Even now, Scott is teaching us the answer. If you and I live with joy and gratitude, this day will be beautiful. This beauty is God’s beauty. This beauty is life, “the life that is the Light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”
There are no equal, competing cosmic powers of life and death. The life we know in God is far deeper and richer than death and its darkness.
Just after Scott died, Lara shared the news on Facebook. She wrote that Scott was full of the joy of the Lord and was entering the kingdom eternal. That day I found comfort in Lux Aeterna, the beautiful composition by Morten Lauridsen. Through its majestic melodies, Lauridsen weaves the words that speak to us at the edge of death:
“Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
You opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers,
and a light has risen in the darkness for the upright.
O light most blessed, fill the inmost heart of all your faithful.
Heal what is hurt; flex what is rigid; fire what is frigid.
Grant the deliverance of salvation; grant everlasting joy.
Light eternal shine upon them.”
GLEN BELL is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, Florida, and chair of the board of the Presbyterian Outlook.
Editor’s note: Scott Hauser was one of the Outlook’s regular Outpost bloggers. You can read his Outlook pieces here.