North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose

As circumstances would have it, I was approached by two different people concerning personal requests. One asked if I would perform a small wedding ceremony on the beach in Destin. Secondly, a co-worker requested I officiate the funeral of her husband who passed away suddenly. Both events on the same day, just hours apart, from one end of the county to the other.

    The young couple were militarily-involved in the same branch and I felt a kinship to them considering my military background. As I stood beside them on the sands of the Emerald Coast, I felt the love and attraction these two had for one another. It was powerful. In fact, the beautiful scene was hard to adequately put into words—the wind was carrying the salty aroma of the sea air, the birds were flying nearby, you could heardistant laughter, and the sun was shining, but wasn’t overbearing. It was too much to ignore, so I told them, “Before we go any further with this ceremony, let’s pause right here, right now, and take a deep breath. Soak up this experience. So, in the days and years ahead, you may revisit this place. To experience all of life in complete fulfillment, you must seize the day, but also you must appreciate it in your heart and in your mind.” It was a special moment for all of us.

    I had prepared a simple ceremony that was befitting of true love between a couple smitten by love. His parents also attended, and the mother of the groom was giddy with excitement. Equally, was her enthusiasm for the daughters the bride brought to the family from a previous marriage. I was happy for the gladness this day had brought them.

    I wanted to linger for fellowship, but I knew traffic was unpredictable and there was another family I was committed to and would be waiting for me at the funeral home.

    Most of the family had already arrived and we spent some time together before the service started. I reminded the widow, as the Spirit had reminded me, the love she had for her husband would not end once the casket was closed for the last time. Their relationship had been characterized by the exchange of true love. And true love does not end. They will be reunited in heaven with a complete love like no other. Their love had enriched them both, and their separation was only temporary because of the mutual faith they shared.

    I tried to comfort, encourage and reveal hope for the family by saying, after the night comes a new day, after winter comes spring, after death comes eternal life, after the struggle comes peace, and after the cross comes resurrection. At the close of the final song I noticed the sun shining through the glass doors of the chapel and it appeared to display the shape and shadow of a cross. I directed the family to this timely display of the sun. There was a touch of peace we all experienced.

    The sun had shined on both of these ceremonies. It was a start for one relationship and the ending for the other. And I had gone from gladness to sadness all in a matter of a couple of hours. As human beings, our hearts are resilient, but they are also fragile. The heart remains at the core of our being. We tell a new couple their rings represent never-ending love; we ask them to make vows till death do us part. Yet, even then, love does not end—because true love does not end. True love takes residence in a person’s heart when they are willing to let it in.  

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a Public Health Services Manager for the Florida Department of Health, former U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York, Florida community. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. You can contact him by email:


Posted by on Jun 11 2021. Filed under Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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