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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Saint That We Can See

. I remember the face of a dear and cherished woman whose career and good heart I revere. I have seen her recently gazing up at the cross. She is somewhere between here and another place. As I write and read of that vision of her rapture I am overwhelmed.

I wrote this as part of a piece called “Why Some Men Cry” a while back. This lovely woman passed away yesterday. I am much chagrined by the grief I feel. I believe that it’s because Dr. Jonnie McLeod was the embodiment of Christ’s message in human form. Some people “walk the walk” instead of “talk the talk”. Dr. Jonnie was like that.

I encountered her name long ago reading a plaque on a wall. I came to know her as a philanthropist and physician who devoted her life to unpopular causes. She gave herself to the service of those that society wanted to ignore. She reached out her hand and heart to those stigmatized by popular perception. I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus helping the lepers.

Drug addiction, sex education and AIDs became banners of light put forth so the world would have to look … would have to do something besides ignore reality. She would not let them sweep it under the rug. She was at times vilified. I know her family suffered and sacrificed as they attempted to live their lives under the gaze and attack of those who would let prejudices and fear rule the public discourse.

I came to know her as one of the kindest, gentlest beings I have ever encountered. I went to her once to express my discomfort and doubt about belonging. She invited me into her kitchen. She looked into my eyes as she touched my hand and she told me she loved me. She told me that God loved me and that not only was I worthwhile but that I was a gift. She gave me permission to love myself and reach out of my comfort zone for the grace that God has given to us all.

She need not have spoken a single word. Her touch and the love in her eyes said everything. Once in a while you meet someone that you know is a messenger. You will know them. You will see it with your heart. When they are gone you will grieve the loss of this light that was God’s love in human form.

Goodbye Jonnie. Thank God for allowing us to know you. We will listen for your song. We will save your seat in the pew and we will write your name in the history of our lives as a voice of truth and compassion.

May peace be with all who grieve this passing. May her message of love sustain you as it has sustained the brokenness of thousands who had once been cast aside.

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