Cree Mason celebrated his forty-second birthday in September. He has lived the past twenty years in this room under the care of his unbelievable mother, Peggy. Cree survived a premature birth at five and a half months old. In layman’s terms, his medical diagnoses are he has spastic paraplegic cerebral palsy, with severe scoliosis and spasms that strike at any time. His pain level is an eight all the time and off the charts the rest. Yet, despite his physical limitations and the heartache of living virtually with no interaction with any friends, he is GRATEFUL. Grateful for his mother, who addresses him as “Cree Man,” and for me, the most remarkable person I have met. His zeal for life is undeniable, and he lives it to the fullest without a complaint!

Years ago, in a heart-to-heart dialogue with Cree, I shared that there is no rational explanation for why he had to suffer such pain and why I did not. There is no adequate answer for “Why” I can walk, and he never could. It is beyond our comprehension and understanding. However, Cree has let go of the painful hurts of life and not become bitter. Instead, he is grateful and lives in “great fullness” because he has experienced hope and God’s love sustaining him in his suffering.

Gratitude is the heart’s response that no matter the cards dealt in life, our reaction is to give thanks in response to it. Gratitude responds positively to life amid great hardships and pain. Life is a gift for enjoyment. It is a gift that life is a blessing amid pain and suffering. It understands life is a coexistence of pleasure and pain and can never be separated. Life is not fair as some people live with far more unbearable pain than others.

Heartache, suffering, and death do not have to negate our hope and zeal for living. On the contrary, suffering and death are in the backdrop of life. Death concedes to the victory of love and life. As Paul, the writer of the book of Corinthians, proclaims, death where O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? He then declares it has been swallowed up in victory hidden in the life of the resurrected Christ.

In that conversation years ago, I told Cree, I believe with all my heart the God, who created the heavens and earth, the God of all love in the power of the resurrection, will make all things new. Everything he suffered and all the pain is taken away in resurrection glory. Fully restored, Cree will regain everything. So I say thank you to Cree, for he has helped me understand and appreciate Meister Eckhart’s words. “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice. (The Funeral)