Dying is easy. It’s living, REALLY living, that’s hard.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. I Pet 3:15-16 (italics mine)
Saturday afternoon I attended a memorial service for a 16 year old girl. Amber and her family used to attend our church—we were in a small group with her mom and dad before Amber and her older brother were even born. They moved away when Amber was only 3, and we lost touch. Cheryl and I reconnected just after the first of the year in the saddest of circumstances. You see, Amber was called home to heaven 2 days after Christmas. I heard the news through a mutual friend and sent Cheryl a note of sympathy. She replied, and sent me information on Amber’s service. It wasn’t too far from home—far closer than I thought—so I went. What a beautiful service! What an amazing young lady!! Everyone who spoke of her talked of her deep faith, her love of Jesus, her care for others. Amber’s life radiated hope! She was beautiful…inside and out. The overwhelming sense of grief at Amber’s death was balanced by the rejoicing that she is now pain free and in the presence of the Lord. The confidence that they will see Amber again has kept them moving forward, Cheryl said. Without that faith, that knowledge, the loss would be even more painful.
Then on Monday, we (Jim, Ryan, Logan, and I) attended a memorial service for Jim’s Aunt MaryAnn. She was quite a character. Opinionated and outspoken, MaryAnn had a knack for letting people know they were loved and valued by her. Widowed over 20 years ago, she has struggled with poor health and serious loss the last few years. In some ways, the service for MaryAnn was much like the service for Amber—filled with story after story of her deep faith, her love of Jesus, and her care for others. MaryAnn lived and demonstrated the hope she had in Christ! The big difference, though, was in the overarching feeling in the church. At MaryAnn’s memorial, the overwhelming sense of celebration in her graduation was balanced by the recognition of the loss. It’s been a difficult couple of years for MaryAnn’s children. They buried one sister in January 2009 and one sister in June 2010. Now they’ve buried their mother as well. Still…the sense of peace that Aunt MaryAnn was finally healthy and whole far overshadowed their sense of loss.
As we drove home from eastern Washington on Monday, I spent some time thinking about Amber. About her mom and dad, and her brothers. About Aunt MaryAnn. About her adult children, and her siblings. And about the things those two ladies modeled in their lives. Although they were 60 years apart in age, lived in 2 different parts of the state, and didn’t know one another, they lived very similar lives. Both were women of deep faith. Both were committed to a serious relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Both LIVED their faith…daily, openly. Both were committed to living in such a way that others would clearly see Jesus in them. Both were successful in that endeavor. And in death, both left such a legacy that those who knew them will be challenged to dig deeper, love more, and live. TRULY live, just as it says in I Peter 3:15-16.
Two women. One I knew, one I knew about. Faithful to the end, their lives—and their deaths—will not be in vain. At least one person is willing to step up to the challenge to REALLY live. Want to join me?