This evening has me thinking about the heroes I have had throughout my life. Some I have perhaps for trivial reasons—like my very first hero, my bother Jon, who was always there helping me out of the jams I got myself into. Case in point was growing up in Australia during our summer vacations my family would spend a number of weeks living in a camper out on my uncle’s property. On one particular summer night when I was about 9 years old I needed to use the outhouse, so although I was scared of the dark I let myself out of camper and headed out in the night. Once outside, reflected in the moonlight I was startled to see some large shapes move. Terrified, I paused to run for my life–until the shapes turned into kangaroos and they hopped a short distance away from the camper. Realizing they were not a threat I continued walking towards the outhouse all the while watching the kangaroos.

Now at this point I need to pause and add that my uncle had recently drilled huge holes (I’m guessing about 6 foot deep and maybe 3 feet across), in preparation for some construction project. I had been told about the holes and was warned not to fall into the holes.  But…..due to keeping a careful eye on the kangaroos and anything else that might jump out of the night to terrify me, I completely forgot about the holes, nor was I watching where I was going. Yes I stepped off into thin air, free falling into one of the huge, deep holes, landed hard and my terrified howls filled the night. My brother Jon shot out of the camper like a rocket and reached the top of the hole within one minute flat.  Seeing my dilemma he laid flat at top of the hole and reached down towards me. What I saw and will always remember is similar to movie clip of a  camouflage painted face of Navy Seal dude appearing above, clasping a falling comrades wrist, holding on with all his might and looking down into his friend’s eyes saying “if you go, I go.”  In reality what my brother actually said as he clasped my hand was “shut up and quit jumping.” Jon dragged me out of that hole, probably gave me a brisk smack on my back and scolded me for crying.

Many, many years later I found myself in a far deeper, more terrifying hole and one that I had absolutely no hope of ever escaping, that is until I met a few of my greatest heroes in life. The hole was alcoholism and drug addiction—the heroes had the inner strength and courage of a Navy Seal, they grasped my hand, showed me the way out of the deadly pit I was in and helped save my life.  Now some of these heroes I know very well because they personally gave me their experience, strength and hope. Their guidance, love and patience were unlimited as they revealed the steps necessary that would draw me out of the hole.  However, some of my heroes I have never met and actually will never get to see in this life time.

Those are the heroes who have gone on before me, who were faithful in carrying the message and who led by example. Throughout the decades and across far distances their example, their lives and their words profoundly touched the sick, broken and dying woman that I was and forever altered my life.  These heroes are a select few—whose lives and lights have burned so brightly that it touched thousands, including me. Heroes who were faithful in carrying the message, who lead by example; heroes who saved my life and hundreds just like me. Most of these heroes I will never get to meet in this lifetime. However, what I can do is follow the tremendous example set before me. Like my heroes, I am responsible to reach down into holes, I am responsible to grasp the next outstretched hand, I am responsible to carry the message, I am responsible to show the next suffering person the steps so they too can escape the hole.

Tonight I lost one such hero. A hero I never got to meet and one I will never be able to thank. Tonight my world is a little darker, my heart is simply sad at the loss. One thing I do know is that wherever my hero is he has made brighter just with his presence and he is probably already busy doing service work. I also know that he was greeted with hugs, a cup of coffee and a “well done, faithful and trusted servant.”