Last night I attended a memorial service for a fellow from work who died recently. Steve was the intake counselor at our center. One of his responsibilities was to work with people as they entered our program, a long-term rehab program for people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. He interviewed them when they came in and helped them get adjusted to life in our center. Steve was uniquely suited for this position because he himself was a graduate of our program. His life was a remarkable testimony to God's power to transform anybody.
As a result of his previous addictions, Steve was HIV positive. In the last few months of his life, he was in terrible pain. The thing is, he never appeared to be suffering, he never spoke about it and he kept working right up until the weekend he died. God blessed him with 17 years of life after he became ill and Steve filled every day of every year with as much life, love and meaning as possible.
Steve's greatest gifts were his capacity to love others unconditionally and to encourage them. Even though his job was officially done when guys graduated from the program, Steve kept in touch with many of them for years after their departure. He continued counseling and encouraging them because he genuinely cared about them, not because it was - or had been - his job. I never heard Steve lose his temper and I never saw him give up hope. Sometimes the guys he worked with got angry. Sometimes they stopped believing that they'd ever overcome their addictions. But Steve never joined them in their despair. Many times, he was the one person in their lives who was able to see them through their dark times.
Even though I, along with many others, miss his gentle ways and his smile, I'm glad that Steve is no longer suffering. Heaven has been greatly enriched by his presence. And my life has been greatly enriched by his.