I spent this morning at the memorial celebration of the homegoing of my friend Ruth. Ruth was 91-92, I can’t remember which. I had been in Bible study for several years with her back in my Elmbrook season of life. I always felt that Ruth had adopted me and my family, because of her constant prayers and encouragement on our behalf. Ruth, however, must have adopted hundreds in the same way, because this morning we heard story after story from people for whom Ruth prayed – daily – FOR YEARS. She spent her last years in a senior adult community which was nothing more than a new mission field for her. As her body grew weaker, and smaller, her spirit enlarged as she became more like Christ. She never lost her sense of mission, purpose, and joy. She was ALWAYS marked by joy. I am a better woman – seriously, I am better – for knowing and being known by Ruth. Her service was nothing short of old-home week, and a completely appropriate celebration for a life well-lived.
Last night, however, was a different story, when I heard word that one of my high school classmates, Jenni, had passed away. Further details revealed that she had been diagnosed with cancer on December 27th. The one that was 4 weeks ago.
She was 37.
She left behind a husband a 3 kids.
Jenni and I have not been close since the 1980’s. I haven’t seen her since the day we graduated from high school. In thinking of her the last couple of days, I have had several distinct memories about the times we spent together in high school, in our denim skirts, shaker sweaters, and long, silly earrings. We had French class and choir together. High school has its own drama [that’s another post], but I can honestly say of Jenni that the memories I have of her are only and consistently good. She was a great girl. Other friends have told of her deep Christian faith and life-long involvement in her church. I’m not remotely surprised.
While traveling up 894 to Ruth’s service, I couldn’t help but think of the contrasts of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these 2 women. I know they’re obvious. But they have served to highlight a couple of things for me.
- I want to live well, for as many days as the Lord gives me breath. Teach me, Lord, to number my days. Psalm 90.12.
- I have asked myself – if the Lord decided my numbered days were done, what will my children most remember of me? This one makes me cry, and causes me to want to do better. In a lot of things.
This summer, at the 20 year reunion of the Green Bay Southwest High School class of 1989, we will no doubt lift a glass to Jenni, talk about her life and legacy, and wish she were there to celebrate with us.
The next time I see old friends from Elmbrook, we will surely speak of Ruth and her life and legacy [but we won’t lift a glass because, you know, different crowd. 🙂 ].
But, at the remembering of both women, I want to remember how I felt today. I want to remember how spurred on I was by both of their lives. I want to remember how their deaths caused me to pause, and take stock, so that when the time comes for me to give account before the Throne, I can give thanks to God in the presence of Christ for these 2 women whose lives and deaths, so different from one another, caused another to want to be more like Him.