When I think of celebrations, I imagine happy chatter, friendly smiles, light-hearted decorations, and great food. A time to gather to honor somebody, something or some day.
Not every celebration promotes a party atmosphere. There are times when what or who is honored doesn’t feel comfortable. The impact made by a life warrants a pause from the norm, a time of appreciation, an awareness of what was.
Loss deserves a genuine observance.
When my friend, Colleen, died in early October, a memorial was planned. Her husband, Ellis, who first suffered through and survived the death of his only child, now mourns the loss of his beloved wife. His desire was to celebrate her with those who love them.
We came together, old friends and new, to honor a life well lived. Not an in-your-face kind of life that is so obvious in our world today. But a tender life, a woman who lived with purpose, intent and a heart firmly focused on others.
Many in attendance hadn’t known Colleen well. Several of us had the privilege of sharing how she’d impacted our lives. How her gestures of kindness had been a boost through hard times. How her truthfulness had underlined her personal integrity and value of honesty.
There were tears and laughter. Sadness and humor. Ellis shared his wife’s story, reminding us of who she had been. How she’d quietly lived and yet left her fingerprints on the lives of so many. Especially him. Their forty-four years of marriage was a shared partnership of incredible joy and unbelievable grief.
She loved well.
He still does.
Hearing about a relationship so special, so purposeful in its intimacy and mutual respect was refreshing. At a time when commitment is fleeting, when that which links people together seems shallow and fragile, it was a grand reminder of a marriage that worked because the two involved insisted on working together. Experiencing the hard as well as the fun.
The best things in life don’t come without cost or effort. If permanence is sought, then a long-term commitment needs to be made; those involved need to be all in.
Colleen made it possible for Ellis to do what he did well. Her behind-the-scenes support, sage advice, and quick thinking provided him with the foundation of encouragement he needed to accomplish his job.
She was a woman of faith and faithfulness. She loved her Savior, and she loved her husband well.
As we came together to remember and appreciate this special lady, I was reminded that each of us has the opportunity to impact lives around us. We get to choose what that impact will be.
Will I live selfishly, looking out for myself and not caring about how I treat others? Will I work at grabbing life for my pleasure? Or will I choose to care for others, see others as more important than myself, and love well? Even if I’m not loved well in return?
Colleen lived a selfless life because she loved her God. And through her, He impacted many for good. And continues to do so.
There is no better celebration than a life well-lived for Jesus.