These last few weeks have been spent walking through a valley.
A few weeks ago I lost another friend who was hugely influential in my life. His name was Byron. He was 74, but he treated me like we were the same age. My relationship with him was somewhere between grandpa and boyfriend, which is only weird if you didn't know him. I admired him for his love and devotion to Christ, his spot-on Elvis impressions, and his exhaustive organizational skills. Though he lived several cities away and was not actually related to us, he showed up for every life event that my family ever invited him to, even though he had his own family schedule to maintain as well. And I remember the profound feeling of worth that gave me to see him at my wedding, or my brother's Eagle scout ceremony, or just a Fourth of July barbeque.
For the last few years, every time we were together, he asked me to sing for him. Usually I sang Crazy, by Patsy Cline--his favorite. We went to see him when it became clear that the cancer was overtaking him, and I sang it to him one last time. I sat close to him and we held hands. (He held our hands up and showed Donnie to make him jealous!) We hugged him goodbye, and I told him I'd come back and sing him some more songs, maybe next week.
But then he was gone.
And this world will never recover from the loss of him.
I went to his memorial service. They had an open mic portion of the service that would have gone on for days if they hadn't stopped it. Person after person stood up and gave testimony to Byron's life, and how he had impacted each one of them. The most poignant testimonies came from two different neighbors on his street. These people, not of the same generation, demographic, ethnicity, or faith, stood up and told us how Byron had been a light to them. How he had reached out to them and pointed them toward Christ. Just by being neighborly. Many others told stories of Byron's life and service to the country, church, and family, but none impacted me the way those neighbors did.
As I walked around the reception afterward, I kept overhearing what people thought of the service. Over and over, I noticed that others had been moved by the two neighbors as well. Somehow the idea of reaching out to others in his neighborhood was shocking, radical, life-changing. Because we know we should do it. But how many of us do?
I will miss Byron for the rest of my life. His personality was huge. His favorite color was orange, and he wore it daily. He always greeted me with a "Hey, Darlin" and a kiss on the lips. But right now all I can think of is that he took the charge of Jesus, to love his neighbor, literally. And I'm inspired to do the same.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." -Psalm 23
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22
Dealing with loss and pain can be confusing and heart-wrenching. Here are some other things God has shown me through loss, and about His unflinching love for us.
I am a Sunflower. (a vision I had about the kingdom of Heaven)
And one more, although this one is about a spider, not a human: