I woke up feeling a bit sorry for myself yesterday. I was feeling disconnected from some friends and wondering if the friendships are over. I was dreading going to the memorial service of friend I had known for over 30 years.
You know there is a connection there. A friend dies and you know you won’t see them again on this earth and then other friends who simply seem OK with letting their friendship with you die when they’re very much alive.
I tried to find an excuse to not attend the memorial service in person. It was over an hour away and I could have gotten away with it. My vision was off. I had eye drops. I had nothing to wear. That was a lie. It was straight up casual.
But she meant a lot to my life, had included me in the regular updates on her condition she did for out-of-town friends, and one of those long updates had arrived the Saturday before she died on Monday afternoon. Being a friend was important to her and she knew how we all dearly wanted to remain connected. I needed to be a friend who celebrated her with others.
I was slated to arrive at the service about 25 minutes before it started. I got a later start than intended because we were supposed to bring our own chairs (at her request the service would be outside in the parking lot of her church). I had left the chairs that usually stay in my car at my niece’s house. I talked to her a bit too long. But I got the chair. The one I had to take was my UNC chair. That was where I went to school. She went to Duke. I figured it would have made her laugh. I wasn’t alone. There were several other UNC chairs there.
Still, I was supposed to get there about 7 minutes prior to the service. I arrived late. Her church had changed locations since I had last been there (which was Christmas Eve, 2018, the night she told me she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer).
I had either punched in a wrong address number or it was wrong somewhere on the internet. I drove around for a long while before I found it. Guess where it was? In the building of the first church I ever attended when Imlived in Greensboro. I had to laugh. I had been there hundreds of times.
If I hadn’t had to park across the street, I would have made the first of the service. As it was, I was several minutes late. I sat way in the back and off to the side. Though they had mics and speakers, I struggled to make out when soft spoken people talked. Like her husband. I did catch about 3/4 of what he has to say, but I wanted to hear every word.
My friend planned her own memorial. One of her long time best friends that spoke said she told her she would be speaking in May. The friend didn’t want to do it, but as she said – she never learned how to say no to her. We all laughed. None of us did. Well, I tried a few times but she had this look. I backed down.
My friend even wrote her own eulogy. The friend who she had persuaded to speak read it. Before she got go it, she said something to the effect “Is anyone surprised she wrote her own eulogy? A chuckle ran through the crowd. Nope!
While she was fine that the service talked about her, she made clear to all her one goal was for it to really be about God. How even before her diagnosis, her story was linked to God. Afterward, moment to moment that was how she got through.
Truly it was uplifting. Oh, it wasn’t sickening sweet, but real. In her “eulogy,” she had a statement about the things she knew were true. One was that cancer sucks. Yes, it does.
There was music. Beautiful and meaningful music. There was scripture. There were stories. There was thanksgiving.
The weather changed throughout the service. On the way there the clouds may me wonder if it would be moved outside. When I got there it was sunny and slightly windy. But the wind felt good and added a certain ambiance.
After one scripture was read at the end of the service, a very large tree randomly fell in the woods behind the back of the parking lot. I was facing that way and it was spectacular. I said to the guy next to me “I guess she decided it needed an exclamation mark.” Of course, with my ADHD brain, I have forgotten what that scripture was. I’ll hear it again and again. I am convinced.
After the service I saw some old friends. It was good. Never was it somber. Her husband, her boys – tears may have fell a bit during the service, but afterward they accepted hugs and wore smiles. That precious woman whom they all adored would have loved it. In fact, she would have loved every second of that afternoon. Of course she would. She planned it.
I was reminded of a few things. First of all, friends there are great gifts and will be there when nevessary. These are some of my oldest, and while I rarely see them, if they knew I needed a boost they would be here in a flash. A couple did sense it that afternoon, and the concern and love I saw on their faces was the encouragement I needed.
As my friend most wanted, I remembered that God is God and should always be the focus. I’m not alone a minute. Even when I draw away. When I’m feeling sorry for myself, my focus is off. I have so very much. Where do I get off not celebrating the goodness and the grace and the gifts every single day.
Thank you my friend. I will never forget you. Good thing, since I plan for us to see each other again. Revel in the joys of heaven. We’ll be remembering the joy of you and how you changed our lives and in doing so changed the world. Well done, good and faithful servant.
(The picture of the yellow flowers was taken out my car window when I was trying to find the church. After I passed them for a third time, I figured I better capture the memory.)