celebration of life

Sunday was a beast for me…but it had some amazing things to be a part of all day! I loved celebrating the worth of an orphan with so many of you at the 9:05 service, and at the Russia presentation at 12:15. These kids desire every ounce of love we send in their direction! But as big at Sunday was for this amazing ministry…the afternoon was a celebration of life for my family because we lost someone very close to us, literally and figuratively.

It’s a story that started a long time ago when a random couple walked into my parents newly opened Deck the Walls store. We still didn’t have a house, and they had one across the street from them that was getting ready to go on the market. The next thing I know, my dad is boosting my 6 year old self through an open door, where a deck would soon be, to open the front door so my parents could inside to check it out.

I was the redheaded kid that trolled the neighborhood on my bike looking for people to listen to me, and always ended up at Gene and Jane’s house because they listened very well.

Our families became fast friends. Birthday dinners. Christmas dinners. I began to think Precious Moments were cool because Jane collected them, and I have gotten one from her for Christmas ever since. My brother was encouraged in golf because Gene had the same passion. Nights I stayed with them because my parents were out of town were extra special because the window of the room I was in happened to be directly across from the window of my best friend…we’d flash our flashlights at each other. Her mom eventually became Grandma Pat once she moved to town. A copy of my first journalism article on politics was requested and sent to Jane’s own family, simply because she was proud of me. They sat with my family at my high school graduation, because Jane ‘wouldn’t miss it for the world.’ With aunts and uncles out of town, Gene and Jane were the surrogate ones that lived across the street.

They were the ones that came over in the middle of the night to tell us our grandfather had passed away, not only once, but twice. Jane held me as I bawled when the realization hit that my mom’s dad was really gone after many long years of disease eating away at his brain.

As I got older, and unintentionally went to Gene’s alma mater, Jane was always the one that would respond to my desperate appeals of what to do with ‘Honey, you do what you need to do for you and God will take care of the rest.’ Before I ever realized who Jesus was for me…they lived it out across the street. I look back now, and see so many elements of missional life in them. They would acquaint the same restaurants and not only know the waiters, but owners too. Everyone loved them, and they would elicit joyous welcomes most everywhere they went. They were missional to me decades before I would even understand what that meant. When God calls us to the neighborhoods and to become a part of their lives…they lived that out.

She also told the best stories about my childhood…

Jane passed away from many different forms of cancer December 28. It had started with cervical cancer about 2 years ago, and eventually spread through to her lungs. Her perseverance carried her past Christmas and that is what she was wanted to do for her mom and Gene. She fought…she fought like hell to win, never giving up faith in the possibility that she wouldn’t win until last Labor Day weekend. Gene was an amazing caregiver the entire time. Her mom was by her side until the end. She had so many people praying for her from Woods Chapel, as well as her church, Timothy Lutheran in Blue Springs.

I slipped out of the Russia presentation early on Sunday, if you were there, you probably didn’t even notice. But I needed to celebrate more than the lives of our Russia kids on Sunday…I needed to celebrate my ‘aunt.’ It was beautiful, and she was truly well loved by so many.

At the dinner with the family it was a beautiful picture of every single person her life impacted, all seated in one room in honor of her. She left a legacy of love, compassion and belief in the next generations, and God willing that legacy will carry on through everyone who loved her.

She had taken to saying, ‘Each day is a gift.’ I was thinking of this Sunday night when I sat on my bed holding my Christmas gift that Gene had left with my mom. As each year before, it was the years’ Christmas Precious Moments figurine…this year titled, ‘Love is the best gift of all.’

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