My dear friend, Susan, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday afternoon this last week, and while I know that her passing is her gain, we who love her grieve and miss her deeply. This is what I shared at her memorial service…on friendship:
About once every other week for several years, Susan would come by the house after she dropped her boys off at school, and I’d put the kettle on. She was predictable in all the best ways. She’d sit up at my kitchen island, and I’d serve her a cup of Good Earth tea while I had my second cup of coffee. “I can’t believe there’s no sugar in this!” she’d say every time. I’d dice up some onions and chop up whatever veggies were in the fridge, and we’d get caught up on our latest news. Sometimes it was no more than hunting for where to find the perfect mustard colored leather purse or what drapes were most appropriate in a certain room each of us were working on. But by the time our basted eggs and sautéed veggies were done, we’d already be confiding about our recent struggles to be patient, show grace, embrace trials, or pray through unknowns. That’s how it was with Susan: all the fun and attentiveness to beauty that surrounds with every bit of her heart knit to all the things that really mattered.
Compassionate, kind, thoughtful, truthful, thorough, and discerning, and slow to speak and quick to listen. These are marks of any friend we might hope for, but Susan wasn’t just any friend; she was the friend that stuck closer than a sister. She always remembered to ask about the prayer requests you may have forgotten to give an update for. She knew how to comfort and she was quick to provide in tangible ways any opportunity that was given.
One of the ways she gave so selflessly was in investing her life in ministries that she cared about, regardless of how hard it was to do so at times. Two of those ministries were personal labors of love for me and my family, so as you can imagine, her giving of her talents and time during those years, were a gift of friendship to me as well. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter encourager, more discerning confidante, or more prayer-filled sister in Christ.
Susan and I were opposites in many ways, but of like heart in all the ways that were eternal. We would laugh anytime we collaborated on an event, shopped for gifts, decorated a room, or picked out an outfit together. She loved for things to coordinate, and I would hardly stand for it. She took care to make sure colors matched, and I challenged that effort at every turn and pushed her limits on embracing the artistically clashing and unexpected. Even this last week, while painting my dining room a shade short of the deepest black, with plans to either paint a mural of cascading bouquet of flowers or gold lettering against the ink colored wall, I longed to hear her say to me again with her knowing smile: “Of course you decided to paint that wall. You’ll probably do something different in there by the New Year!”
She spurred me on in my artistic endeavors, believed in me before I even truly believed in myself, and always asked to hear more of the ways God was opening doors for my gifts and talents. Even while she battled breast cancer, she continued to tirelessly encourage, applaud, and support my work. She even commissioned a large canvas from me of her favorite sunflowers, just before the outside world stood up and took notice. So often I have thought to myself, “Susan will be so excited for me. Susan would be so proud.” And trust me, that speaks more of her than of me; she was that generous of a friend.
Cicero wrote: “Few men have true friends, and few are worthy. True friends are amazing, and all amazing things are rare. Many foolish men think often of money and little of friends, but they err. We can be strong without a lot of money, but without friendship, we are not strong and life is meaningless.” My husband, Troy, likes to define a true friend as someone who makes you want to love Christ more. If that is true, Susan not only brought so much meaningfulness to each of our lives, but in her 50 years here with us…invested eternally. Her friendship has prepared us for the glory and joy that she now has become. We can’t wait for our sweet reunion, friend.
This has been a season of grief…for myself, those close to me, and especially now – worldwide. Loss occurs 365 days a year but somehow in the glow of the holiday season, the memory of loved ones is especially tender and raw.
I painted these two new prints in GraceLaced Shoppe recently while mourning the loss of a friend’s baby, and then, while I personally wrestled with finding the joy of the Lord.
I’m praying these prints encourage you and yours this season, to look to the One who comforts the broken-hearted.
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