Ryan and Jessica Woods story is one that I ran across several months ago on youtube. I was completely moved by their bravery to share such a beautiful example with those of us who might not have had to deal with this one, this hardest story of all. Stories like theirs give us an understanding that bridges the gap of inexperience.
I like all kinds of stories, but some of my favorites are those where people go through hard things with humor and dignity and authenticity, all at the same time. Death is a story that is very difficult to tell with these particular elements, at times even impossible. For some reason though, I am drawn to admiration, my spirit agreeing a hearty “yes”, when the story of death is told with bravery and honesty, and a touch of humor thrown in for balance. Some of my favorite movies dealing with this theme include Steel Magnolias, 50/50, and Stepmom. One of my most memorable movie scenes is in Steel Magnolias following the funeral of Shelby. M’Lynn and her friends are in the cemetery and when the tension of pain and grief become so overwhelming, Clairee grabs Ouiser and shouts, “Hit her!” What follows is pure brilliance. I agree with Truvy, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
But those are movies. We all know they are but shadows of reality.
And yet, I think dying, the hardest of all stories CAN realistically be told with humor and dignity and bravery. When they are told with authenticity, not shying away from the dark places, they have a way of captivating an audience with the truths that they convey. Randy Pausch shared his brave story by giving a Last Lecture and it affected literally millions.
A good story flat-out teaches. And I think the hardest ones of all have the most to share. Doesn’t everything ultimately loop back to Christ’s story? The way that he not only faced death down, but chose it for us. Since we are made in Christ’s image, we too are called to live in a way that faces death with a greater story in mind. His life teaches us not to hide our eyes or hearts from the pain and hurt of death, not to run away from hearing and sharing in other’s hardest, because the reality is that it is only a turning point in the bigger story. The best is yet to come.
Ryan’s story on this earth ended on November 7th. His life will continue to teach and guide because of the way he chose to live his story.