I never met Robert Wendland.  But I will never forget him.  And I will never forget those who struggled so valiantly to save him.

ROBERT PROVIDED ALL OF US WITH A TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY.  IT WAS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY WE FACE AS HUMANS -- TO LOVE OUR BROTHER WITHOUT CONDITION OR EXPECTATION OF REWARD

IT WAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOVE ROBERT WENDLAND, JUST FOR BEING ROBERT WENDLAND: 

          Not because he could fish.

          Not because he was a son, father, brother, and husband.

          Not because he sold auto parts and supported his family.

          Not because he spent his last years as a disabled man.

BUT JUST BECAUSE OF WHO HE WAS -- ROBERT WENDLAND,  HUMAN BEING.

AS I HAVE PONDERED THE MEANING OF THE GREAT STRUGGLE WE EXPERIENCED TOGETHER OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, I HAVE COME TO SEE THAT ROBERT OFFERED THE WORLD A GREAT GIFT—HIS UTTER VULNERABILITY -- WHICH CAST A MAGNIFYING MIRROR UPON US ALL.  

IN MANY WAYS, OUR REACTIONS TO ROBERT TOLD US MUCH ABOUT OURSELVES:

          WHO WE ARE AS INDIVIDUALS

          WHO WE ARE AS FAMILY

          WHO WE ARE AS MEDICAL AND LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

          WHO WE ARE AS CLERGY

          WHO WE ARE AS CHRISTIANS

          WHO WE ARE AS A SOCIETY

IN SOME CASES, THAT IMAGE REVEALED THE IMPERFECTION OF THE HUMAN CONDITION.

BUT THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR RECRIMINATION.  IT IS A TIME FOR HEALING.  IT IS NOT A TIME FOR ANGER, BUT FOR LOVE.  AND SO OUR PRAYERS ARE TO FORGIVE THEM, LORD, THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.  MORE URGENTLY, FORGIVE US, LORD, FOR OUR OWN SHORTCOMINGS ARE GREAT.

THE REFLECTION THAT ROBERT WENDLAND CAST ALSO GAVE US A GLIMPSE OF THE TREMENDOUS BEAUTY OF THE ONE IN WHOSE IMAGE WE ARE ALL MADE:

-        A MOTHER’S INEXHAUSTIBLE FOUNTAIN OF LOVE

-        THE DEVOTION OF LOYAL SIBLINGS

-        AN ATTORNEY’S UNBREAKABLE COMMITMENT THAT HONORED HER PROFESSION AS IT REVEALED THE GOODNESS OF HER OWN HEART

-        THE WILLINGNESS OF AN UNKNOWN NURSE TO RISK HIM or HERSELF TO TRY AND SAVE A LIFE

-        THE RALLYING OF PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHO NEVER KNEW ROBERT WENDLAND PERSONALLY, BUT WHO CARED ABOUT HIM AS ONE OF THEIR OWN.

BUT NOW, IT IS FINISHED.  ROBERT’S WORK AMONG US IS COMPLETE. 

AS WE MOURN HIS ABSENCE, LET US ALSO REJOICE THAT ROBERT DRINKS THE WATER OF LIFE FROM LIVING SPRINGS.  HE IS WHERE THERE IS NO NIGHT.  For Robert now, as for us someday, DEATH AND SORROW, CRYING AND PAIN ARE GONE.  ALL THINGS ARE NEW AND HE ABIDES IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.

AMEN.

Wesley J. Smith
July 28, 2001
Stockton, California