I missed the sunset tonight. But I saw something just as beautiful.
The afterglow. A sky painted by my favorite Artist in brilliant hues of orange and yellow. I've seen a lot of sunsets. All over the country and the world. But the show isn't over when the sun goes down. The sky is still glowing. Often, magnificently.
The sun may be gone. But its aftermath is still beautifying our horizon.
I've seen lives like that. My wife was a life like that.
The sun set suddenly on my baby's life four months ago. But its brilliant afterglow continues to light up so many lives. More than even I knew. It's there in the flood of "she changed my life" tributes I've received since she went Home.
It's made me think. About what I'll leave on people's horizon when my sun sets. And about people I've known, whose life on earth is over, but who are still "afterglowing" on the landscape of my life.
Oh, I know the kind of people who bring clouds and shadows with them - sort of like emotional Pigpens - Charlie Brown's friend who spreads old dirt wherever he goes. They're the gripers...the gossipers...the grimacers...the growlers...the grumps. No glow.
But what is it about certain people that makes them a treasure to be cherished, long after they're gone? It's in a certain way they make you feel when you're with them.
They make you feel lighter. There's this contagious joy and ever-ready smile that's the sun on the gloomiest day. Who doesn't want to be around - even seek out - that kind of person?
My Karen had that - even when she might have been weighed down with medical, financial, work stresses. But her joy was explained by a favorite Bible verse of hers: "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). It's an unsinkable buoyancy that's independent of circumstances and anchored in Christ.
These "afterglow" people also make you feel safe - unlike the many who have an agenda, can't keep a confidence, make you feel judged, or later use what you tell them against you. But there are those rare people who have been for me a harbor where I know I can run in the storm. Someone I can pour out my heart to. Those people change your life.
So do the people who make you feel heard. In a world where no one can remember what you were saying when you lost your train of thought, these people can. Because they're all about you. Unforgettable people really listen - for your heart, not just your words.
Ultimately, the "afterglow" legacy people are the ones who make you feel important. When you're with them, you feel like you're the only person in their world at that moment.
I lived with and loved this kind of woman since I was 20 years old. Long enough to know why people of every age and race and background cherish her memory.
She made us feel Jesus. She always told us, "It's not about me. It's all about Jesus." It turns out she wasn't generating all that love and joy. She was reflecting it! She was like the moon, reflecting the glory of the sun. Or, in her case, the Son. Of God.
She felt so totally loved by Jesus - because she could say in the words of the Bible, "He loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). And she lived Jesus' promise to light up every life that's given to Him: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
I've seen that light. Up close. For many years. I call it her Jesus-glow. So radiant that it continues to light my life - and countless others.
Even after the sun has set.