“Life Is for the Living,” column for July 29, 2014

No one looks forward to going to a memorial service, let alone, two in one weekend. But my husband and I didn’t want to miss either of these.

The first was for a long time family friend. For 50 years or so, Dave and his wife shared their lives with my husband’s parents. As couples, they raised their children together, traveled the world and watched their grandchildren grow up. I’d heard countless stories of the memories that made the two families seem as one. Blood, they say, is thicker than water. But friendship can be the life raft that keeps us afloat.

The second service, two days later, was for a young woman who wasn’t so young anymore, but will always be young to me. Trish was a teenager when we met. I was in my 20s, a new mother and a youth leader in our church, when she asked if we could be “prayer partners.” For the next two years, she came over once a week and we would talk (as best we could with my kids climbing on us) about everything and nothing. Between visits, we prayed for each other. The visits were great, but it was the prayers, I think, that bound us together.

One thing I am sure of: I learned far more from Trish than she did from me. Then she went off to college, married her childhood sweetheart, had three babies and lived a beautiful life.

We kept in touch by email. Three years ago, she wrote to tell me she had breast cancer, and reminded me that we were still “prayer partners.” Her treatment went well. She went on with her life. Then last week I learned the cancer had come back and she was gone.

The story of our lives is always a mystery, isn’t it? What will happen next? How will it end? What will people say about us at our memorial service?

The services we attended this weekend celebrated lives that were lived well by two people of great faith, who loved their families and friends, and made a difference in their communities. One life was long; the other ended too soon. But both changed their worlds, left their marks on those who loved them. And both will surely be missed.

I wish they could’ve heard all that was said about them. I wish they could have seen the great gathering of family and friends and realized how much they meant _ and will always mean _ to those they left behind.

Who knows? Maybe they did. If Heaven is anything, surely it’s a place where we’ll get to know beyond all doubt who we are and how much we are loved.

Years ago, I lost my first husband to cancer. People who know that often ask me what’s the best advice to offer to someone who is grieving?

The answer is simple. The best advice is no advice at all.

Second best? Take care of yourself, get some rest, and then do what you want to do.

And third (only if you’re sure they are ready to hear it): Remember that you’re alive.

After my husband died, a very kind friend told me something I have shared countless times:

“The challenge for you now,” he wrote, “having lost your loved one, is to live a life that is honoring to his memory, while at the same time, that life moves forward, so that only one person has died, and not two.”

Some people get to live longer than others. It’s not fair, but there it is. Those who do, I believe, owe it to those who don’t, to live well, fully alive.

That’s what memorial services are for. We gather to celebrate life. To remember the departed, wrap our arms around their families, hug the necks of old friends and remind ourselves that we are still alive in all our imperfection until it’s our turn to live in a new and perfect way.

I’m looking forward to that.
___

Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for your ” Life is for Living Column”. I lost my husband to cancer in July. He had a year long battle and the last 3 1/2 months were in the hospital. The message from the article had many things that have been helpful to me. I have three teenagers that had a great father and we will honor him by living our lives to the fullest.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Lisa, I am so very sorry for you loss. Please know that I wish you and your chldren all God’s best!
      Grace and peace,
      Sharon

  2. Kathy Mast says:

    Sharon, I shared this column with my brother who just lost his wife of 59 years. He was her caregiver for the past 21 years. Now, he finds himself at a loss because he has too much time.
    Your words were just what we have been telling him. It’s fine for him to find something new and perhaps different that will be his passion, just as caring for his dear wife has been for most of his life. They were high school sweethearts and married at age 18.
    Thanks for sharing your gift of writing. I truly enjoy reading your words…even though they often bring tears. God’s blessings to you!
    Kathy

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Kathy, I’m sorry for the loss of your sister-in-law. Please offer my sincere condolences to your brother, and know that I wish him, and all your family, grace and peace in the days ahead.
      Sharon

  3. Phillis says:

    I write sitting by my mother’s bed in hospice. Years ago you signed a book I bought for her in Fort Smith because she was adjusting to widowhood. Three years ago she got cancer, and I have been reading your column aloud to her. I wish you could have known her. She was a gardener and farmer and strong Christian, a wonderful mother, grandmother, and great grandmother of very strong determination. We have enjoyed the connection and inspiration of your writing for a long time. Writing to you helps me begin the grieving process. Thank you.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Phyllis, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through right now. It sounds as if your mother has prepared you well to face whatever life has in store. Please know my heart goes out to you and your family. I wish you grace and peace.
      Sharon

  4. Sandra says:

    As my husband and I read the paper together, he sees my eyes fill up with tears hands me a tissue (which he has been keeping handy lately) and says I ‘m guessing your reading Sharon’s column! Thank you, you are truly my favorite liar!

  5. Jackie Conklin says:

    I’ve heard so many times after someone has lost a loved one, live your life to honor their memory. When I lost my son in 1989 and with a broken heart I vowed that I would live the rest of my life in honor of my beautiful son. A lot changed after that and all for the better. Thank you so much for all your heart felt columns Sharon. I love them all.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thank you, Jackie. I’m so sorry you lost your son. No doubt he’s very proud of you and the way you honor his memory.
      All the best to you and your family,
      Sharon

  6. DC says:

    Be of Good Cheer! We will see our loved ones again..
    John 5:25-29…Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. v.26…For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; v.27…And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. v.28…Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, v.29…And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (judgement). KJV

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18… But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep(dead), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. v14…For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. v15…For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. v16..For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. v17..Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. v18…”Therefore comfort one another with these words”. NKJV

    Revelation 2:26… And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: KJV

    Revelation 5-10… And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. KJV

  7. Barbie Wirth says:

    Sharon,
    I heard you were at the memorial for Trish…so was I and so sorry not to see you! But, it was a beautiful tribute to her life..especially by her husband, John. A life too short but a life that touched so many for the glory of God!
    Thank you for writing such nice words about her.
    Love and prayers,
    Barbie

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Barbie, I can’t believe I missed you! It was a beautiful service, I think even Trish would’ve approved! I’ll hope to see you again, dear one, on some occasion that is not half so heartbreaking. All the best to you and your precious family!
      As ever,
      Sharon

  8. Julie Dufault says:

    Each week Trish would forward me the link to your column. I did not make it out for her memorial (just back from CA and in the middle of moving) so it was a blessing to read your words… ironically published on what would have been her 57th birthday. She reached out to me in junior high, introduced me to my future husband and was my college roommate and a bridesmaid in my wedding. Above all… she was a faithful friend. Thank you, Sharon.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thanks, Julie, it was a beautiful service, and trust me, I know she adored you!
      Fondly as ever,
      Sharon

  9. Shashi says:

    Sharon you shared a message about celebrating life a true message about
    which we forget while living . I kept thinking about you and
    your friend .

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