I went to a memorial service yesterday for a woman I’ve known since I was 14. Lyn led the bible study I was part of in high school and the on-campus club that was born out of that, and was a loving mentor, encourager and friend. I spent many, many hours of those formative high school years in her living room, sitting on her couch surrounded by the girls – now women – whom today I call my dearest friends. We laughed and talked and prayed and goofed off on that couch – we shared fears and questions and stories. Lyn shared her own stories, and was honest and loving and kind and endlessly patient with our teenage shenanigans. Week in and week out, every Sunday at bible study, every Monday at our club planning meetings, every Friday at Faithwalk, every summer at Pinecrest, every spring break when we boarded the bus to build homes in Mexico – she was there. Through it all Lyn fed us – with her Chinese chicken salad and the Haagen Daz bars she kept in the freezer just for us – but even more so with her listening ear, her words of truth and encouragement, her compassion and love, and most of all with her strong, unwavering faith – a rock for all of us.
As I sat at the service yesterday listening to story after story from every age and stage of her life, the same themes emerged – Lyn loved people really, really well. She poured out love and compassion on them, she spoke truth to them, she encouraged and championed them, she was joyful and silly and full of life – abundant life.
I listened to story after story of how Lyn’s life mattered because she loved others so well. I watched a slideshow of photos of her life – from baby to teenager to bride, to mama-to-be in all her 80’s maternity wear glory, to proud mom of small children who became college graduates, to the last few years of her life, sick with cancer but still with a beaming smile, proudly holding her great-nephew and laughing with friends and family.
I let the words and the images wash over me, and my eyes filled with tears as I thought “This is a life well lived.” Lyn spent the majority of her adult years as a stay at home mom, homeschooling her two kids through the elementary years and pouring love and life into her family, her friends and her community – she didn’t invent anything (as far as I know), her company didn’t go public, she didn’t earn multiple degrees or mastermind a merger. She spent her time and energy investing in people, pouring out love and putting others before herself.
It made me think about my dad’s memorial service – my dad had some impressive items on his resume – starting companies, star high school athlete – but I think those things got about 5% of the air time at his service. 95% of what people talked about was the way my dad loved them – how he encouraged and uplifted and helped them, and the way his love left an indelible mark on their lives.
My dad and Lyn were different in many ways, but they share the same defining characteristic – they had perfected the art of loving people well, an overflow of the deep faith they shared, and that was the hallmark of both of their lives.
The world is so loud sometimes, so harsh with yelling and distractions and deception about what matters most – loud, splashy claims that a life well lived means climbing the corporate ladder, being the smartest or hottest or most successful person in the room, being popular or powerful or otherwise large and in charge. The world shouts that the accumulation of wealth or success or degrees or power will lead to happiness and contentment and a rich, full life – a life that matters.
Sitting in the holy stillness of the church I grew up in, surrounded by stained glass windows and wreaths aglow with christmas lights, singing along to Amazing Grace and letting the words of love and light pour over me, I was pierced with the truth of what matters most – that a life well lived is a life marked by love.
I hope and pray with all of my heart, soul and strength that someday my life will be summarized by the simple statement “She loved others well” – because that is all and everything. That is a life well lived – the only life worth living, one bound up in sacrificial, small, messy and holy everyday love. I am deeply humbled and forever grateful to have two such extraordinary examples pointing the way.