I was in Atlanta last week on Sept. 11 and as I lay on my bed after a long day of walking I decided to take some time to think about what possibly could be going through the heads of all those families on this day who lost a loved one. It was hard to imagine really. I haven't lost a family member in such a way, but in looking over those who I do still share breath with each day I was almost paralyzed with fear at the thought of losing one or all of them. So, I simply said a prayer for them and then turned my attention on my dear friend Monica who had lost her beloved dad to a courageous battle with cancer earlier in the week.
Mike Napoli was one of those rare gems in life. He exuded life by living out loud, in a humble kind of way, through his ministry as a priest, a husband, a dad, a grandad, a best friend, and he served his country. Although I wasn't nearly as close to him or El as I was Monica, what stuck out to me like a sore thumb was the beautiful children he helped raise and their commitment to serve God outwardly and with joy. Men like Mike seem to be rare these days, at least to me. I know a ton of people, and a ton of Christians, but I know few who have chosen to live a life dedicated to Christ like Monica and her family, and to that I give Mike and El a whole bunch of credit.
His grandson Ben posted some old pics of Mike and it was obvious how much he loved life, loved laughter, but most of all, LOVED his family. I can only hope and pray when I go they can say the same for me.
I also want to share a God moment in the passing of Mike Napoli that came unexpectedly at 4 am, gee are you surprised, the morning he died. I had been startled awake for some reason and God said to me, "Ardith, pray through the morning for the Napoli's." Hmmm.... I thought about that and decided the best way I could do that would be to paint. I had wanted to paint Mike a cross, had researched his genealogy and stuff, but had not begun the actual painting yet. So, at 4 am I began to draw and create the Mike Napoli cross you see here. The God part of all of it is that with each pencil line or brush stroke, I said a pray for him, so I can't tell you how many prayers are really in this cross, but enough for the family to know he was so loved. At around 8 am I got a text that Mike had passed at 4:55 am, exactly the time I was painting his cross. Still gives me chills. I finished it around 9 and delivered it that day to a grieving, tender family, but through the tears I could see the joy in their faces of a testament to a life well lived. The symbolism of the cross is important for you to understand the entire beauty of this man and his cross.
Green - The color of life that his family embraced for the past 7 years.
Red - The color of the blood of Christ and one of Mike's favorites.
Orange - Mike's favorite color
Purple - Royal Courage, which if you knew him he had
White - The grace and purity of Christ, and of Mike now with him
Blue and White Stripes, Fleur de Lise, and Two gold stars are from the official Napoli crest.
North Star - So he would easily find his way home.
Brown - Nature and Earth, Mike had a down to earth nature we all loved
Blue and Red Chevrons - in honor of service to country
51 outer dots in circle - Mike's favorite passage, Psalm 51
John 3:30, his favorite verse
2 gold rings in center, Mike and El's lifetime love
2 orange dots to each side - Dawn and Monica
2 red bars - their spouses
3 green bars - Darby, Sydney, Ben
Blue vertical Bar - My favorite color, because I LOVE this family!
As exhausting as it was I knew flowers weren't my style and this gift was such a God thing. I missed his memorial, but they printed the cross on the bulletin, so in some small way I was there giving a hug to this great family, and my dear friend of 19 years.
Cancer is not fair is it? I don't understand why some people beat it and some don't. But, one thing I have learned from Monica is the we serve a God who is incapable of nothing but his very best towards us. In that, as I remember the 9/11 families, the Napoli's, and now another friend who's young son was just diagnosed this morning, I trust that to be true and ask that God hold ALL of us in his loving hands.
JOHN 3: 30 HE MUST INCREASE AND I MUST DECREASE,
(Here's to you Mike on a BEAUTIFUL LIFE WELL LIVED!)