I went to a funeral a few months ago. Like hospitals, I typically avoid funerals like the plague. I suppose I don't like to be reminded that our lives are really a passing breeze. In this case, I wanted to go to honor a friend and former coworker. My friend was way too young to go and lived such a pure life you wonder why God didn't bless us with just a few more years of her presence here on earth.
I worked alongside my friend for only four short years. I had stepped into a leadership position in an organization that was in a state of great change. I was focused on leading well, implementing change, and making improvements. My friend had been with the organization a long time. Our offices were side by side, separated by a single door. After about a month into my role, she left a note in my mailbox that said she was glad I was there and that I was doing a good job. I needed that affirmation. I didn't keep the note, but I wish I would have.
At the funeral, my friend's family told of her life before she "found a relationship with Jesus" and after. It was quite different. It was a wonderful, tranformational, and redemptive story. I didn't know this story. I wish there had been the chance for my friend to tell me more.
When we worked alongside each other I was focused and intense. I thought a lot about performance and production. These aren't bad things. In fact, I'd say that we improved in these areas together and that the organization benefitted from this. Sitting at the funeral, I couldn't recall a single organizational performance improvement that we accomplished. I did remember that she liked hot dogs on the grill, that it made her smile when her husband dropped by with lunch, and that she often played the beautiful music that her daughter recorded. The louder she played the music, the more she needed peace in any given stressful day. I found myself wishing that I had left the door between our offices open more often. I wish that I had allowed more time for real conversation, for sharing our stories.
At the funeral they played video clips of her last days. She was in very poor health, yet she told her husband (who was shooting the video), "God's been good to us. He's good to all of us. It's just too many don't realize it until it's too late." From her hospital bed, she sang hymns with her daughter. She was at peace. She was ready to meet Jesus.
I cried when I told me wife about the funeral. I hadn't stayed in touch with my friend for a few years and I wasn't close to the family. Yet, I cried because we lost a very good woman too soon. She didn't wear masks and position herself to be someone she wasn't. She didn't try to impress. She was simply who she was - a broken, beloved child of God, saved by grace. She was a grandma who loved her family and had a wonderful marriage. She often spoke of weekend rides on the Harley with her husband. She lived life that is truly life. She will be missed.
The card at the funeral included a poem entitled, I'm Free. "Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free; I'm following the path God laid for me." I want to live life like my friend - to ride through this life on a Harley with a smile and to approach death with a peace and contentment that only comes from a life immersed in grace - to live free.