What I Can Learn from the Life and Death of John Lewis

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With a gracious spirit and hopeful optimism, John Lewis cast a final vision for a future that should have long already been realized.

On Thursday morning I had chills, goosebumps and moist eyes as I listened to John Lewis’ inspiring last words as they were read aloud by a stammering and emotionally overcome reporter. It was a redemptive missal designed to be dispatched on the day of his homegoing celebration. These powerful words were penned from John Lewis’ hospital bed in his last days with us, as if to put an exclamation point to mark the end of a life of singular focus. Though many of his socio-political positions would be much different than mine, his last words powerfully summed up the life message of his remarkable eighty years which he dedicated to the nonviolent pursuit of the basic human right of equality. “Together, you can redeem the soul of our nation,”[1] was his call to all of us who remain.

It was a call to courage. It was a path to healing. And it was remarkable.

His last breaths on earth were re-invested and once again poured into the very cause that consumed his life’s energies. With a gracious spirit and hopeful optimism, John Lewis cast a final vision for a future that should have long already been realized. And as if to hand off the baton of his life-mission he wrote, “In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

Listening to the reporter stumbling through John Lewis’ posthumously published final words, I looked at my wife’s expression – I could see that she also had been deeply moved. It was if we both sensed that this was a moment of history. Something substantial just happened.

But when I heard Lewis’ correcting statement that, “Democracy …

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