Looking lovingly upon her child, the eyes of a young mother express much that can and cannot be put into words. On this tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, this particular mother's gaze contains more of the meaning of the second kind. Words, however, do come to mind when speaking to others of her child. There are two of them: last kiss. Her husband died on that fateful day; she was carrying their child in her womb. The baby that she bore became the last expression of their love, their hopes, their dreams – their last kiss. What this child comes to understand about love and marriage and family will be shaped and defined by those two words.
Something of the best and most noble aspects of human nature find clear and profound expression through the great challenges of life. Unemployment has been a savage reality in the lives of millions. The doubts and fears one faces in losing a job is numbing, but often something benignly revelatory may occur. Many have stated that having lost their employment was the best thing that ever happened to them. Having one's security shaken, an individual is forced to take the measure of his or her character and to discover what is truly of value in life. Amazingly, troubles faced head on can awaken opportunities to turn avocations into vocations, heretofore undeveloped talents and skills into new and fulfilling careers, and defeat into victory. Another example of drawing inspiration from affliction would be coping with a serious illness. Hospital beds are full of people with a lot of time to think. Their thoughts often consist of evaluating the course of their lives and addressing areas of their existence too long neglected. Spiritual enlightenment may cause a patient to reconcile with family members, estranged friends, and with God. They may discover that they leave the hospital healed in ways far beyond the physical.
Benson Bobrick in his book, Master of War, opined that General George H. Thomas was probably the best Union general of the Civil War. Because of the envy and spite of Grant and Sherman, in Bobrick's opinion, General Thomas did not receive full credit or, at least, received delayed credit for his incalculable contribution to the Union victory. He handled every slight with class, dignity, and reserve and was sustained by his deep religious faith. After the war, Secretary of War Stanton said of Thomas, "I feel before him as if I were in the presence of George Washington." General Thomas, a Virginian who "went North," to defended the nation patriotically and magnificently. He responded to the injustices piled upon him by letting his incredible skill in leading an army speak for him. Thus, he stood nobly before his unworthy detractors.
The ultimate story of overcoming tragedy, of course, is related in the written works of authors named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Gospels tell the story of one Jesus of Nazareth; a Savior born into the world to free mankind from sin and death and to proclaim the kingdom of God. Throngs followed him to hear his teachings that were delivered with an authority beyond any teacher yet known. Besides his words, Jesus performed great signs and wonders that captivated the people. He was becoming a superstar. Jesus, however, was not interested in his celebrity status but in his mission. He had come to bring salvation and eternal life to all peoples. In the end, this truth did not play as well with the people who were more interested in material based miracles. Jesus' claim that he and the Father were one infuriated the religious and civil leaders in Jerusalem to the point of their designing a stratagem for the purpose of killing this Jesus Christ. With the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, they all assumed that it was over.
That assumption would have been true if their assessment of the person of Jesus of Nazareth had been accurate. He was not a popular figure among the people who was so overcome with his fame and abilities that he became deluded to the degree of assuming the mantle of divinity. He was not simply a tragic figure that took on the religious and political powers of his day and lost. On the first day of the week following his death, Jesus conquered every fallacy, every misinterpretation, and every plot by his resurrection from the dead. His victory resounds in the worship of untold millions throughout the centuries to this day.
The source of strength to face and overcome the challenges of life is in the belief that faith, hope, and love will prevail. In order to appreciate what has been accomplished, one must return to simpler things. The day when a young maiden said yes to an angel, was overshadowed by the power of God, and welcomed the presence of God and man within her womb. Beginning and ending with two stories of two pregnant women. The first received in her child the "last kiss" of her husband, the other received in her child the "last kiss" of God to his creation.