You were with us, now you are in us

“You were with us, now you are in us”. A phrase used today in Ibillin by a close friend of Jabour Khoury as he reflected on the loss of his dear friend just over 6 weeks ago to cancer. Thousands of people came to Jabour’s funeral service from across the north of Israel – drawing Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druze together in shared grief. Today I was reminded of the enormity of that loss as I sat with Jabour’s family, led prayers at his graveside, left roses in his memory, and wept for the loss of my good old friend – one of the first Arab Christians I encountered in 1997. As another friend wrote in the memorial book (presented 40 days after the death, and packed with testimonies to this remarkable Christian doctor – a true polymath of a man), “The absence may make him more present now – this is the nature of love – these are the beloved people, who live in our souls”.

So….the loss is enormous, and was etched on the faces of his wife and children. But Jabour is not lost, either to heaven who will have gladly received him, or to earth where his wise words and influence continues, and his beautiful and generous life reminded me of the words Jesus uses in John 12: 24 about death and a fruitful life: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ A final word to Sohil – Jabour’s closest friend: “You are living in my heart, feelings and mind, even though you are now living in God’s hands’.

God, may my life be fruitful for you, and by your grace even my death be fruitful too.

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