It's been a couple of weeks now since Doug's beloved sister Debbie passed away after an 18 month battle with cancer. We are both so grateful that Doug took a trip to see her in late June and also that we could both return for the family visitation, the memorial and the burial. It has been a sweet yet sad time with his family and the road ahead remains a journey of grief, healing, and recovery. I have spoken of how life will recalibrate itself but adjusting to the new rhythm of life with Debbie's presence missing will be tough.
And yet in the midst of the searing sadness that her death has brought, I feel we were able to celebrate well an amazing life. In the US, Protestants have a tradition known as visitation. It is usually held the day before the memorial service and is an opportunity for people to stop by the funeral home and visit with the family of the deceased. I have no idea how many people came to the visitation but a steady stream of people stopped by from 4 in the afternoon until 9 o'clock at night. The spirit was one of joy and gratitude for who Debbie was in people's lives. There were tears and heartache to be sure but overall it felt as though Debbie was orchestrating this marvelous web of people making connections and reaching out to care for one another. Debbie was a connector of people and one of the most caring, compassionate people on earth so this spirit was exactly the right way to honor her. Her book club, which she had been a member of for over 15 years, sent flowers, but also a stack of books as a reminder of how they had journeyed together through the years. Beautiful flowers and a lovely photograph of Debbie graced the room and we all felt loved, surrounded and cared for.
The next day the memorial was held at the church where Debbie had grown up and continued to serve into her adult life. It is the same church where Doug grew up and also where his parents have been members for 50 years. The service was led, upon Debbie's request, by her brothers, Doug and Greg, both who are ministers. All 4 of the siblings shared in some fashion and our 12 year old nephew spoke with grace and gratitude of the very special ways that Debbie had touched his life. They were true buddies. The service was a beautiful blend of incredible music, touching tributes, heartfelt prayers and one of the most incredible sermons I've ever heard Doug preach. There were many tears throughout the sanctuary from the 700 plus participants but again, the incredible nature of Debbie's life really shown through. The verse Micah 6:8 was a centerpiece verse: It urges us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. Debbie did all of these things in a most excellent way throughout her lifetime.
We are grateful for the wonderful way in which people surrounded us and for the joy of reconnecting with friends who have meant a great deal to us and to Debbie through the years. As Doug said in his sermon while quoting Jesus in John's gospel: "This is our time of sorrow, but one day, our joy will be returned." This is the promise we have received, this is the promise that keeps us going now. Debbie has joined her savior in a place where there is no more sadness and no more tears...where her frail human body has been restored to the fullness of life and where one day we will all be reunited once again. Peace to Debbie's memory. She has left us with a legacy worth pursuing.