The untimely, and unforeseen death of a friend this past week has given my heart time to reflect, and somehow writing it out puts some purpose to the sadness. God uses moments like these in my life to cause me to step back and take stock of my life and the lives of those around me.
He was 51 when the heart-attack came and in just moments he was gone. A strong healthy man, husband and father with an ache in his arm sat down to rest in front of the fire. As his wife massaged his arm and shoulder, he collapsed and never got up again. “This is the only time in Neil’s life that I ever saw him go down when he didn’t get up again. He never stayed down,” his wife Nancy recalled through tears.
This past week I entered into the story of grief and goodbye with my friend Nancy and her son Blake who lost the love of their lives. Memories—they had made so many. Photographs from Neil and Nancy’s wedding day, candid moments as they took their vows, and the sheer joy and bliss of having signed that wedding certificate were stories that leaped off of the photos she showed me. Then there was the birth of their blond-headed joy-filled son Blake, and the tender moments of Father and Son snuggling together, then adventuring together as Blake journeyed from baby boy to man. Adventure, joy, struggle, happiness, and friendship filled the memories marking this man’s life.
It has been said that the only legacy a man or woman leaves behind is how they treated the people God placed in their lives. I believe this to be true. In the case of my friend Neil, every picture brought a smile to the faces of his family and friends. His son shared at his Memorial Service that his dad gave him everything he needed to be a man. Neil left nothing undone. He made sure his family and friends knew he loved them, and left no one guessing. He died with no regrets, and his family had no regrets of him, only sweet memories.
The road ahead for Neil’s family will be rough, with much sorrow, but not because Neil was a man who left them with pain and misery. Instead, the sorrow will be of the loss of such a grace-filled spouse, father, and friend.
Proverbs 20:6 says:
6 Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?
Neil was this kind of man–faithful. His family, friends, and neighbors attested to this fact with such admiration. Neil passed away having “filled the tanks” of his loved ones with his love demonstrated in his actions. Fifty-one years is what he was given.
Reflecting on Neil’s passing leaves me asking: How many years will I have? I have no way of knowing. One thing I do know, however, is that when I leave this world for the next, I want to have filled the tanks of my family, neighbors and friends. Like Neil, I want to live without regrets so that those who know me can say, “She was a faithful woman who gave us all of who she was. She left us full.”
These are my thoughts this November evening….