For the many family members who had already lost a spouse or parent in the last year, I knew this fresh wound would stir up memories of their own grief. Before us lay Grant Hamlin, son of Clarence, husband of Linda, brother of Lee Roy and Harvey, father of Chris, cousin of hundreds, friend of hundreds, coal miner, bus driver, evangelist, pastor of many.
He was an ordinary man, like every other man in the room, yet extraordinary in the paths God had taken him on through this life.
The lesson God spoke to my heart was to take note and look around at all the lives one ordinary man had touched.
The night of the visitation, the line of people pouring through single file to pay their respects lasted from before 6 p.m. until after 9 p.m.
There were nearly a thousand counted who had signed in, and the room was packed again for the funeral.
Grant had no stack of gold to draw men to him. He had no string of college degrees after his name to impress anyone.
He wasn't famous by the world's standards and had nothing remarkable about himself that would cause so many to want to pay their last respects.
The thing that set him apart and caused such a crowd to come together was the witness of Christ in his life that touched so many others.
His desire to preach and tell people about the love of God took Grant on his own particular journey from one church to another, one congregation to another, one revival to another, most of his adult life.
He traded in the stability of a normal 8 to 5 job to pursue the call he believed God had placed on his life and was faithful to that call until the Lord called him home.
One life touches so many others, in ways unknown to both parties at the time.
Our words and our actions are like pebbles tossed into a pond that sends ripples in ever- broadening circles outward.
Whether the pebbles we toss are for good or for bad, the effect is still going to go out from us and be remembered by those who survive us.
It is so easy to feel insignificant in this big old world.
It is easy to feel like a mere speck of dust or grain of sand compared to the vastness of the universe.
It is easy to feel that being the earthbound creatures that we are, our lives do not matter to anyone beyond our immediate family, or that they do not impact the Kingdom of God or affect eternity.
Yet every single individual on this planet has within their ability the power to impact others for good or for evil - one life at a time.
The person we wave to across the street every day, the drive-thru cashier we pay for a fast supper, the exhausted mother in the checkout line in front of us at the grocery store, the bank teller, the student, the stranger we stop to give directions to - all of these are just the beginning of those upon whom we leave our mark, no matter how seemingly small.
We impact people that we may never even meet, without realizing it.
An act of kindness done for one person may be remembered and repeated by that person for someone else.
The money we send to missions or to feed the children-type programs will benefit those who never see or even hear their names.
A song sung in front of an audience, a photograph taken of a grandfather proudly holding his grandson, a picture painted of an old homeplace, or a poem written for a friend - all of these things go out to touch and touch again lives and nameless people into the future.
The lesson I learned today from Grant's funeral was one that I'm sure he never knew he'd be teaching through his death.
All those who gathered to honor his passing and his memory were living proof that one life touches many, many others.