It seems that all of my conversations, the real ones, the ones that anchor my soul, have had one main theme running through their words. That predominate truth is: In the end, everything matters. Every moment is singularly unique in our lives. Every word we say, every word we type, and every thought we think matters. There isn’t any room in this crowded, angry world for idle gossip or conversations. There isn’t time for regret or revenge or any of the other motivators that drive so many of us, there is only God. How can believers waste time on what doesn’t matter when the world is falling apart?
This heady revelation exhausts me. I realize there is more to do and frantically try to do more, and then collapse because I am working in my own strength again. How do I do all I am called to do without falling apart at the seams and freaking out as my stuffing, my baggage, plops out for the world to see? And I throw another petty fit about things that don’t really matter all while pretending to be all about the kingdom.
My old friends, depression and anxiety, love to come knocking when I allow myself to become overwhelmed with the task before me instead of the savior before me. My all or nothing personality takes over and I attempt to power through life in my own strength. The outcome is rarely good. But God knows what I need, people who live for him and show me authentic vulnerability and live with the knowledge that everything matters. The world lost two such exceptional people last week.
Early last Saturday, I received the news that a good friend of mine had passed away at the age of 45. This wasn’t an unexpected death, at least not to his doctors, but for the rest of us it was a blow. I remember visiting him when he got out of the hospital last February after what was supposed to be treatment for a bad sinus infection. But it wasn’t a sinus infection, He had stage four brain cancer and had been given six months to live.
The next day, I’m at his house to visit with him and his family and offer whatever help I can, and he is meeting a business associate about a real estate deal in one of the run-down neighborhoods in OKC. No time to feel sorry for the inevitability of a death that would come too soon. The old town of Britton isn’t going to rebuild itself, and he didn’t have time to worry about a cancer that may or may not kill him. He would beat the odds or die trying. (Yep, I went there).
That day was just so typical for Thomas. It wasn’t that he was some sort of workaholic that felt he could defeat anything by sheer will power. He was just always confidently optimistic that things would work out according to God’s plan. I, on the other hand, freak out about our electric bill. He has been given a death sentence and greets it with a peace I can’t fathom while I live on the edge of anxiety about losing power for a few days. Even in his illness, he was mentoring people just by living in the knowledge that everything matters.
I remember when we met a Boy Scout function. He was genuinely enjoying himself as much as the kids. He would always introduce me as the person who got his wife involved in scouting because she enjoyed the Day Camp I directed years ago. After I had resigned my position as a Unit Commissioner with the Boy Scouts, he would point to my past achievements as something worthy of remembering. He was like that, always building up the people around him and bragging on their accomplishments. He loved people and loved life.
My oldest son had the opportunity to serve as the Senior Patrol Leader at a district wide event when he was in his early teens. It was a big responsibility to be given to an easily distracted youth that had been discounted as the disruptive one in his own troop. But Thomas saw something in him that said leader and gave him a chance to regain the respect he had lost after his fall from grace with his own troop. My son rose to the task under Thomas’s leadership. Thomas took an interest in my child and he was better for it.
No kid was a lost cause in his mind. With four kids of their own, he and his wife knew they could do more, so they opened the doors to their home and invited in three foster kids. Seven kids under one roof, only the crazy or the confident would take on such an endeavor, they fell into the latter category.
Later, when Thomas’s troop decided that they didn’t want to have a Venture crew, Thomas came to our Crew with his daughter. When I asked him what he was planning on doing over the summer, he answered very matter of factly, he would be training for a half marathon, hiking 100 miles with the troop, and growing the Crew. And he did. We had tried for years to grow the Crew, but with Thomas as the adult leader, it really grew. What makes that so amazing is that it is a kid led venture, adults supervise nothing more. Just having him in the room made people want to come.
My youngest child had the joy of mom being his adult leader at scouting functions. One of his older brothers had dad at everything, the other experienced dad the last two years of Cub Scouts, Josh was stuck with me all through Cubs. I loved it, and I believe he did too, but sometimes boys just need to be around men. He chose Thomas as his role model.
When Josh was still in middle school, he had the opportunity to go on the spring break camping trip to Diamond H Scout Ranch. He was ecstatic. His admiration for his role model was captured in a picture Thomas’ wife sent me. Josh had to eat every meal seated by Thomas and she managed to sneak a pic of them in the lunch room one day. Thomas just took it in stride. The week-long backpacking camping trip to Diamond H became a tradition at spring break.
Every event that the Crew went on, I was invited. I was the designated female leader on more than one occasion. Spending time outside with someone reveals their true character. When the wind is biting cold and you are having to check the harness on an impatient kid, so he can continue on the ropes course, you see if that person really has the patience they act like they do. He did. He believed all the attributes of the fruit of the spirit mattered. And he lived his life to display them in all circumstances.
It wasn’t just his love of kids that made him great. He did everything with purpose and determination. If there was a chance to improve his community, he did it. His fingerprints are all over the revitalization that OKC has undergone in recent years. From banking to development to mentoring the youth of today, he lived a life on fire for Jesus and actively looked to make everything around him better. I only wish I had told him just how much his mentoring meant to my kids and me.
He lived with an “All for Jesus” mentality and exhibited a joy that expressed itself through a dry giggle that peppered his conversations. Sure, his life had challenges and problems, but even when things weren’t going well, he lifted a room with his quiet confidence that God was in control.
I mourned when I heard about Thomas’s passing because I knew the world, myself, and my kids would miss the brief touch of greatness we had felt, and then I was sucker punched by the loss of another dear friend three days later.
Moyra was one of the first ladies I met when we started attending our church 21 years ago. He story is quite different than Thomas’s. She was in her eighties, but her death came as an unexpected shock to those of us who knew her.
She loved people with a passion that matched her once red hair. She was full of spark and enthusiasm for everyone she met. And she bravely tackled everything life threw at her.
I loved listening to the stories of her native Scotland in her youth. Her husband relayed how their church was bombed during the blitz when Hitler sent the pilots further north in the war. He was even tagged and relocated in a country home like the kids from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. She loved her Caledonia but felt that opportunities were more abundant on this side of the Atlantic.
Here, she opened a small business with her sister that remains open to this day. Her cookie shop thrived under her hospitality and warmth. Every customer mattered and was treated with respect even when they were in a foul mood. The love of Jesus oozed from her inviting little shop and mingled with the integrity she used to make her homemade goodies.
But she was more than just a savvy business woman, she was my friend. She offered me a job when I was in desperate need of one and she made it work with my children’s schedule. I was the runner for the store. All the shopping that had to be done daily to ensure she was serving the freshest ingredients in her dishes was done by me. I even had the privilege of driving her husband to his weekly lunch meeting with his friends. I enjoyed getting to talk to him on our drives, that is, whenever I could understand what he said in his thick, Scottish brogue.
She gave me a job where I could keep my youngest with me the entire time. At two, his developmental delays were quite pronounced. I needed to be able to meet his speech and language specialists at our home twice a week. I also had the older kids care for after school and with activities. Day care was an option that would have used up the meager salary I could have made, and we needed money.
She allowed me the dignity of work when I needed to feel useful. She recognized the strain that young mothers feel but don’t often share because we don’t want to look ungrateful or admit we are overwhelmed. She was real and compassionate in the way the bible teaches in Titus 2:3-5 3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
She modeled love with her life to the point that my middle son delighted in calling she and her husband his “other” grandparents. His love of music and bagpipes began with them. He would ride his bike to their house every Tuesday after school to learn how to play the pipes and relished the times he would get to play in front of the church with his mentor.
Like Thomas, Moyra lived with a vitality and love for life that few seem to have. They both will be missed terribly. But why would I choose to memorialize them in this rarely read blog? Because death travels in threes. And the third death of direct consequence to my life occurred just before, during, and after theirs’. It is a death to the false narrative I have believed for so long about who I was.
The weekend Thomas died, I was attending a sorority reunion. I know that sounds like a superficial endeavor, but for me it was huge. I had been listening to lies whispered in my ears from the pit. I had spent half my life focused the parts of my past that I saw as deplorable and blocked out all the good times and friends I had made on the way to my self-made pool of misery. I was so full of anxiety and self-doubt that I almost didn’t attend. But I did.
And when I got there, I was greeted with an exuberance I wasn’t expecting. My mind had believed the lie that I didn’t matter to anyone from that period of time in my life and that no one would remember or care if I was there. I was wrong. Hiding away from the world and refusing to allow anyone to see who I was hadn’t hurt the world, but it had hurt me.
I was tempted to hang out in the place of grief for all my “what could have been” moments, but I realized I didn’t have time. Moyra’s death came sharply on the heels of Thomas’s. And at my reunion I faced the growing realization that the only one holding onto my checkered past was me.
At each funeral, I cried for a life that was so richly lived and mattered so much. Each of my friends lived in abundant love and hope. And then in private, I wept for a life I wish to live, I worried about another bill, and I anxiously wrung my hands in apprehension for a future I can’t control. I started to spiral back to my old thought patterns. And then I stopped.
My old self is really, truly dead just like my friends who now walk with God. Acknowledging, this death without lamenting its unrealized potentials matters just like everything matters. I can’t go all in while I’m holding on to a corpse of bad decisions from my past. The truth that every word and everything matters has to extend to me. I matter so I must do, say and be what matters. A life that matters to God matters most. Its time to start living for God because that is all that really matters.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.