A week ago today I had the honor and special privilege to oversee the “Celebration of Life’ service for Ann Hansen. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since 2010. I’ve known Erik & Ann Hansen since the early ’80’s.
The Hansen story is an amazing Jesus story of God’s grace and strength in time of need. Ann was responsible for bringing Erik to our Church. More importantly, she was responsible for introducing each of their children, now adults, to Jesus. Erik came to know Jesus personally on March 23rd, 1983, while attending a men’s study at the John Wayne Tennis Club bar. We had over 100 men who gathered every Wednesday.
Each of the Hansen kids-Kristin, Erica, and Kevin-now have families of their own, excelling in different ways, but still walking with Jesus. As they faced mom’s illness together, they kept their family in tact as normally as possible. Erik left his professional life to take care of the love of his life, eventually admitting her to a care facility in the last year and a half. The stress and trauma of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, living with such a long grief, can be horrendous!
The light and love that was brought to the family and friends at the memorial service was truly amazing and impressive. Now that mom’s pain is over, each of them was able to share their love and experience with mom in a most powerful manner. It was clear that Jesus was the reason for their loving experience, strength, and hope they were able to share at this ‘Celebration of Life’ gathering. So, my job was easy! It was a complete setup for sharing Jesus. I was able to share my experience with the person of Jesus, not the religious Jesus, not the doctrinally pure Jesus, but with simply Jesus.
When Jesus was about to go to the cross, he told the disciples that he was going away for a little while and would soon return at the resurrection. He assured them they knew the way. Thomas protested that they didn’t know the way-the directions to where he was going. Jesus corrected his thinking by saying “I am the way!” A similar scene occurred at Lazarus’ death. Mary and Martha were upset. Jesus mentioned the resurrection and they thought he was speaking of the future. Jesus corrected their thinking by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life!” Amazingly, Jesus can be known dynamically and personally. I missed this point for years, reaching the world without allowing Jesus to reach me.
By sharing that Jesus is inviting everyone into a personal relationship with him, not religiously, but really, I invited all in this gathering to enter into this relational Jesus encounter, either for the first time or to renew the relationship they already have. And, several reported to me their positive response to Jesus!