I received word this morning that a dear friend and member of my flock, Clay, went home to heaven. Clay had been in poor health for the last few years and was confined to a nursing facility so I didn’t get to see him very often. Last year, when our church celebrated our 100th anniversary Clay wanted to be part of the festivities so his special caregiver, Treva, made special arrangements for him to come.
It was my privilege to baptize Clay many years ago. While he was still physically able to attend church he always made a point to stop by to greet me. A huge smile constantly graced his face. And he was always grateful for some special new blessing in his life. Maybe someone had given him a new tie to wear, or a friend had taken him out for a delicious meal. Clay always had some blessing to share, and he always concluded by saying, “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?” No matter how many challenges Clay may have faced that week, he always found something to rejoice in … “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”
What makes this all the more remarkable is that Clay was a man with special needs. He was born with a handicap that left him dependent on others to help him with the things most of us do for ourselves. As far as I know he never learned to read, but he was always observant. Clay wasn’t able to groom or dress himself as meticulously as others, but every Sunday he had on his suit and necktie. A Sunday Bible study group was a spiritual home for Clay, and others with needs similar to his. His simple, childlike faith and joy in the Lord lit up the room when he walked in.
When I think of Clay I think of Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church about “weaker” members of the Body of Christ: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:21-23).
I pray that our church will always make people like Clay feel at home. We are richer for having people like Clay in our fellowship. Whether we know it or not, we needed him more than he needed us.
It saddens me to think that Clay is no longer among us. But I smile to think about what Clay experienced when he left behind his handicapped body and moved into the presence of his Lord whom he trusted as a child trusts his parents. And entering Paradise I know Clay would say as he always did, “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”