Thoughts on the Death and Life of a Young Friend

I was eager to attend this memorial service.  I can’t say that is common for me, or anyone else, for that matter, but, there it is.  “Wear bright colors, anything but black.”  And in a way, those instructions delivered from the new widower were a description of his wife’s life.  Lizzie wasn’t a long-time friend, maybe just the last 6 months, but they were dark, difficult months, and I watched as she remained optimistic, joyful—even bright in the midst of daily 10-out-of-10 wracking pain.

Lizzie was just 26, an artist, photographer, and wife.  She had battled cancer for more than 7 years, spending the last two years fighting back the effects of graft vs. host disease.  She shared her journey with the world on her Instagram account (here) and on her blog (here), documenting the difficulties of the disease and its treatment and proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus, her Savior.

The stage at church was covered with flowers—not your typical funeral bouquets of lilies and carnations, but a fairy field of flowers that made me think a talking hedgehog might pop out at any minute to tell a story.  The setting looked like a place where she would have loved to set your family portraits.

img_9049As I sat waiting for the service to start, I paged back through her texts to me, a chronicle both of her pain and of her love for others.   We shared how the Lord had answered prayer, a response from her blog that made us both laugh, and songs that encouraged her to keep going. Every message I wrote to her was  crowned in return with a little heart emoticon on top, Lizzie sending her love. One of her final texts was a link to a message on singleness that she thought would encourage me.  It did, and so she did she.

More than a thousand people had gathered to celebrate Lizzie—including many of the young people from church who had grown up with her.  And we listened to her family speak—her mother, sister, and husband—it wasn’t so much about Lizzie as it was about Jesus.  One things that was obvious about Lizzie was that she loved Jesus more than anything and wanted all she encountered to know Him.  Her family told of her speaking to her caregivers in her final hours about the hope that she had in her life with Jesus after death.

Yes, Lizzie was young.  Yes, cancer is miserably lousy, and yes, we live in a broken world.  But Lizzie understood that death was only the beginning of the life.  If she was writing today, she would want to share with you the following Good News:

The only Holy God created mankind to walk with Him, but Adam and Eve disobeyed and dishonored God, thinking that they were more wise than the One who made them.  Their sin broke that relationship with the perfectly pure God, sullying all generations of mankind to come.  BUT God sent His Son, Jesus to earth to live a perfectly holy life, to offer Himself as the only way to restored communication with God by dying on a cross and resurrecting from the grave three days later.  He promises that whoever calls on the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord will be saved.  Through His death, He gives to all who believe, life eternal.

img_9060Lizzie knew she was going to die, if not at 26, maybe at 86. Death is the eventual path of every man and woman now alive.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, what vitamins you take, how many Romanian Deadlifts you preform, or if you eat vegetables–sooner or later you are going to die.

Lizzie was ready.  Are you?  You can read more about Jesus in any Bible here, or even watch the Gospel of John in video form here.  And if I can answer any questions, nothing would give me greater pleasure (or honor Lizzie and our Savior more) than to speak of Jesus with you.

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