In less than three minutes hundreds of lives were impacted.
Hundreds of families and friends were left wondering what the last thing was they’d said to each other. Whatever it was, it had been the last.
This time it was my turn to sit in a pew for a friend.
To watch them say goodbye too soon.
To let tears fall as their faces and voices strained to express joy and gratitude in the painful dead-center of heartbreak and disbelief.
I just talked to him.
We just got together yesterday.
I still look at the door, expecting him to come in any minute.
Grandchildren and great grandchildren rose one after another to call him blessed – I was stunned. I’d seen grandchildren come up before, to share a poem or story, but never so many or so moving. This man left a legacy of faith and modelled a life well-lived, and even the young seemed to recognize it and mourn the loss of such a mentor.
The tear-filled gratitude of those left behind – even great grandchildren! – left me wishing I’d known him better. Known him at all.
“In every interaction, he was kind, positive, and generous.” I noticed a couple of heads nod in agreement.
“He always put others first,” more heads nodded.
“Family was so important to him – he cherished time he had with us.” More nodding.
There, in the sanctuary, and in the reception hall over buns and pickles, we were left with remembrance and reverie.
I wished I had known him. How lucky the family was to have a dad like that. A grandpa. A boss and co-worker. A friend.
A lump formed in my throat at the remembrance of my own mom’s funeral – how meaningful it was that so many came. How painfully ironic it was that, in the reception hall after the funeral, our family’s table had one empty chair. My heart still hurts with missing her. I teared up for my own mourning, and for theirs. They were going to have a big hole in their lives now. I was sorry for the way this was going to hurt, and wished life didn't have to be riddled with sorrow like it is.
As I considered how lucky they were to have known him, gratitude filled my heart for the excellent role models in my own life. I realized many of them have gone though. Either our season of mentorship had ended, the friendship faded as friendships do, or they were taken to heaven. I want more people like that in my life. (I should probably get praying about that…)
I also couldn't help but wonder what people will say of how I impacted their lives.
I hope what is said at the end of my life is similar to what was said that day – that others feel loved and encouraged and like they stepped out of a dark, stuffy room and into a light airy one when we began speaking. It’s a tall order, and feels a bit like wishing for a million dollars or my own personal spacecraft, but I still hope to be known that way – to affect others that way.
And, I wondered too, if today was my last day, would I be pleased with my choices?
No. I wouldn’t.
I reluctantly acknowledged habits and choices that pull me out of the moment, out of relationship, and away from the kind of person I would rather be. The kind of mom I’d rather be.
What kind of person do I want to be?
And what kinds of habits and choices would develop that?
I silently resolved to take an honest inventory and map out a way toward being that person.
These are the thoughts we’re left with when our loved ones move on to their eternal home.
When our loved ones leave, their earthly story done, we’re left with a challenge – a question to answer.
What story will my life write?
What impact will my habits and choices have on others?
What kind of person will I be?