A crisp and clear morning. Bright and beautiful. The sort of day that fills one with hope and optimism. I imagine a morning with coffee, light banter, reading, playing with the dogs. And, a quick, tender kiss on the lips. Their last.
A perfect Saturday morning.
She steps away to run some errands, as done countless times in the past. In that short period of time, reality changes forever. The home they built, and thrived in while raising a family, burns to the ground. The love of her life lost to the ashes. In an instant, everything is gone. Worldly possessions. Husband. Grandfather. Life partner. Nearly everything.
Many people loved the man she lost. Multitudes grieve for her and for the loss of our former pastor, Jeff. One of the regrets of my life is that my level of grief, though real, cannot approach the level of those closest to him. A fixture in the community, I assumed there would always be plenty of time to hang out with him.
And then there wasn’t.
Heart-wrenching grief is a sign that one has loved much.
And so, I charge you, dear reader, to love much. Love with abandon. Love as if this very moment may be your last. Death comes to us all. Time is short. People move into and out of our lives for a variety of reasons.
There are a handful of people, Jeff is one, whom I deeply regret not pursuing more intentionally. I know I would be a better person—somehow more whole—if I had engaged these folks in more direct, vulnerable conversation, or perhaps even just stacked firewood with them for an afternoon.
In some of these instances a self-conscious shyness hindered me, and I would think to myself, “Maybe next time…”
And so, once again, I charge you to seize the day. There are gifted people in your life right now who you have put off initiating a friendship with. Write that letter. Invite them over for dinner. Like mastodons poking out of a receding glacier this spring, offer to help them clean up the voluminous piles of dog poop in their yard, and do it cheerfully.
Perhaps you’ve been meaning to simply pass along a few kind words of encouragement. DO IT TODAY.
Jeff was a man who devoted his life to knowing God, showering his wife and children with affection, doted on his young grandchildren, loved people, and had that rare spark.
Healthy and vigorous at age 52, it was snuffed out far too early. However, I found myself grateful for all the tears that flowed down cheeks in church today.
Such sorrow is indicative of a well-lived life. People mourn his loss because they loved him. The loss hurts, and this is good. It means his life had impact.
Jeff loved his wife and kids extravagantly. Their love for him was, and remains, equally deep. Let us all love with abandon like this. Love in such a way that we go to bed each day without regret. So that one day—a day we all hope lies distantly in the future, but could come at any time—we will mourn its loss. May our hearts grow to the point that we will weep bitterly in that hour.
To love is to risk a piece of ourselves. It is not merely sentimental, like some pithy quote on a greeting card. Rather than hold back that deepest part of ourselves for fear of being hurt, offer it up in the full knowledge that one day we will be wounded.
Grief will burst forth from a well you might not know even existed. Begin digging that well today.
Momentary pain and loss is a fair exchange for a life of passion, fulfillment, and purpose. If and when we experience such loss, we’ll have a massive support network, if only we’ll love others with abandon.
Pity the one who lives a lukewarm life of quiet desperation, loving little. Grieving even less. May we all live lives of passion, acknowledging that we could lose everything. And even if we do, “These three remain: faith, hope, and love.”
(This originally ran in the paper. Since I wrote it only a day after these events went down, I was a nervous wreck about putting this out there. Thankfully, it was well-received, so I thought I’d share with you because it seems fitting on the 14th of February.)