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Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a friend who died; a loving, well-respected man who gave of himself to everyone he met. Everyday since his illness began, I’ve prayed for him and his family, and everyday, I’ve imagined what they were going through, knowing their time together was limited. On my way to his service, I imagined what his wife and his family were thinking and feeling because I was remembering how I felt the morning of James’s memorial service. <PREVIEWEND>
It had been four days since James’s death, since I’d last seen him, and I pictured where he was, both his physical body, as well as his soul. I knew the essence and soul of my precious James was in the presence of God, and I prayed that all was well with his soul. These last few days I’ve said the same prayer for my friend who died, but like James, he, too, was a good and faithful servant, so I give thanks that he’s in the presence of God.
The day of James’s memorial service, my emotions were eerily under control. Perhaps it was because I was numb, still in shock. As I stood in the receiving line, I felt like I was comforting those who waited patiently to pay their respects instead of the other way around. I was trying to make them feel better and tell them how much James loved and appreciated them. But yesterday, at my friend’s memorial service, I came undone. As I sat in the pew, I cried and sobbed and struggled to catch my breath and not draw attention to myself. I cried like I thought I would have at James’ memorial service, and a couple of times I felt light-headed and faint. It was sheer willpower, God’s power, that kept me upright.
Today I’m so very sad for my girlfriend who lost her husband. I’m sorry for everything I know she still has to face. Her husband had a long illness, but then I know what that’s like as well. While James died unexpectedly, my first husband died after a long illness. I sometimes think long goodbyes give us time to realize that living with a debilitating illness is not a life we want for our loved one, or ourselves as their caregivers. As difficult and unimaginable as it may be, most of us eventually arrive at a place where we’re ready to let them go. Whether our loved one verbalizes it or not, I think many of them come to the same conclusion. This realization doesn’t make it any easier when their final day comes; when we watch them take their last breath. It doesn’t make the heartbreak and the finality of never seeing them, in this life, any easier.
I’m grateful my friend has real family who cares about and loves her, and unlike James’s family, I’m certain hers will not break apart in the days to come. Then again, we never know how people will react after a loved one dies; what things they will tell themselves that allow them to redirect their heartbreak and anger. Perhaps, instead, we should consider the day when it's our turn to find ourselves in the presence of God. Like James and our friend who died, will you be able to look at Him and say, "It is well with my soul?"
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