I went to a funeral last Sunday. It was one of those funerals where the church was filled and the family was strong. They got up and read psalms and readings and said wonderful things about the guy.
He was a regular guy. He was the father of 5 kids, husband of a wife of 50 plus years and I think, had it all right. I mean, probably not all right but mostly. He loved his wife dearly and daily and it seemed to exude from him. Not in a loud, talkative, all over her type of love...but a quiet respect, a knowing look and a small smile as he looked her way. They were a team.
He was ill for quite a while. He struggled daily to be and do what he wanted to and he kept the fight on for years. His kids rallied to help their mom and he remained faithful and kind.
The funeral was really nice and the readings were great and I began to drift into my "funeral" thoughts...you know, when I die, I will have this song and this pastor and blah, blah, blah. Then one of his friends and coworkers got up to talk. He began with the standard fair and then talked about how his life mattered.
This man did not live a flashy life. He lived in a small house, he had tons of kids, he did what he could for others...and as I listened...was a lot. The coworker talked about how every person he came in contact with understood that they were special. He didn't do it the same way every time but he did it. He worked in a "group home for boys" and these were the boys that needed a guy like him. He was in the perfect place.
I began to think about our relationship and how he made me feel like I was special. Many years ago, his daughter and I played softball together and he and his wife came to every game. I had three little kids, and his daughter had two and we were having the time of our lives. He and his wife would sit right behind home plate and give advice. As I remember it, every time he was at my game, I would hit a shot out to right field that would turn the fielder around. I would trundle around the bases and get a triple and sometimes I would make it all the way home. From then on, he was my good luck charm.
Fast forward 15 years to a man who was considering Hospice care and by the grace of God, I was in the office. When I saw his name, I told the girls in the office he was my "good luck charm" and I had to take care of him. I related the story to them.
When I arrived to begin my care for him, we talked about the old days and I thanked him for coming to all of my softball games to see me play. I told him that I used to wait for him to walk up the sidewalk and I knew I was having a great night at the plate. As we visited, his daughter (who is my dear friend) informed me that he was coming to see her play, not me...and that was that. I disagreed with her and told her...all these years, I was sure he was coming to cheer me on...sure he wanted to watch you play but he was there for me. He made me feel like my little old softball game was important to him and he was there to cheer me on!
I spent the next few weeks caring for him and it was a joy to be able to give him a little of the love back that he gave me over the years. But, even when I was the one offering the care and love, he never let me leave the house without a prayer. I would pack my nurse bag up and he would say..."we have to have a prayer" and we would hold hands. Then, true to his form, he would thank God for Me...my skills and having me with him as he was on his journey.
I left the funeral thinking I want to be like him. I want to live a life that matters...a life that is remembered well and lived well. I muttered that to my husband a few times when we were driving home. Then, I asked, what is a life that matters? I would imagine to some, it is having an awesome house, great body and handsome husband. I have 2 out of 3 there and it still doesn't seem to make me content. So what else makes for a life that matters? Is it stuff, is it great vacations, more money than time? Is it a job that you love and great people to work with?
I think it is all of that at different times in life. I know that when I had three little ones and they didn't bite or get in trouble at school, I was living a life that matters. Then I went to Juarez and Nicaragua in the 90's and saw poverty and thought going there and building was what was going to make my life matter. And, it did...but I couldn't do that every day or every week or even every year. As I hit the second century of my life...I couldn't figure out what makes my life matter. I believe end of life care makes my life matter but I always end up getting more love and wisdom than I try to give. Does that take away from what matters?
I learned on Sunday what makes a life matter...meeting people where they are and letting them know they are special...letting them know that they are special to me and that my life would not be the same if they weren't part of it and...not to use words but use actions and behaviors. You see, my friend didn't come to every game and tell me that he was there to see me...it was in his smile for me, his words of encouragement and his funny smile when I thanked him for coming to see me play. He could have said he was there for his girl...but he didn't and it made my softball nights for many years and still makes me warm up inside when I think of him.
Because he did...he lived a life that mattered. As I sat in that church, I felt the challenge to step it up and get going. So, Thank you dear friend and know that you are an example of what matters, or living in a way that matters and I am going to make a daily effort to make my life matter...one special person at a time!
May you rest in peace dear friend!
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,