It’s Tuesday morning. Through the closed blinds on the living room window I can see a pink glow, evidence that a new day is already well underway. Today millions of Americans will watch as the king of pop is laid to rest in Los Angeles. They actually printed and distributed tickets to the memorial service, and rumor has it that several singers will perform for the crowds that gather in the arena to witness this spectacle. Amid the lights, cameras and fanfare, a grieving family will say their final goodbyes to their son and brother, and three young children will bury their father.
Back here in the real world where the rest of us live, I will be attending another funeral today. I didn’t know Paul Padilla very well at all, but what I did know of him blessed my heart. He started coming to The River about a year ago. He had a gentle spirit and a deep love for the Lord. There was a quiet humility about him that simply reminded me of the presence of Jesus. Paul had a smile that was contagious, even though it always to me seemed to stand in front of some hidden sadness. During worship on Monday nights, I would hear his deep voice softly praying and agreeing with whatever God was doing at the moment. “Yes, Lord, yes,” he would say. Afterward, on his way out, he always made a point to catch my eye, smile at me, tip his head forward slightly as a gentlemanly show of respect to a lady, and say, “Bless you, sister Rachael.” Then he would be quietly on his way.
Last week Paul, only 42 years old, quietly slipped from this life into the next. The suspicion is that he died of heat stroke. I don’t know anything about his past or where he came from. But I have no doubt that the nanosecond after he closed his eyes for the last time here, he opened them to see the face of Jesus and heard the words we all long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.”
Today there will be no lights and cameras, no fanfare at a little church in Barling, Arkansas. There have not been tickets sold to witness the memorial of a man who lived simply and loved God. There will be no spectacle for millions to gaze upon – just a handful of friends and family, gathered together to honor the life of a good man.
It’s Tuesday morning. Through the closed blinds on the living room window I can see a pink glow, evidence that a new day is already well underway …