When A Loved One Dies…

In the last 3 weeks I have lost 3 people I admire, love and respect. They have gone to Heaven and I wanted to share some thoughts as I have been wrestling through this time. And can I get a Hallelujah?!—kids go back to school tomorrow! 

Again, I always feel like I need to preface this with, “I don’t have all the answers”—I probably have more questions than answers. But I want a strong enough faith that can withstand and handle all my questions… If one of Jesus’ last words can be in the form of a question, I am quite confident God can handle me questioning the why’s of life as well… 

We lost my husband’s friend from high school, Smitty. Don Smith became a dear friend of mine the instant I met him. I am pretty sure he died with thousands of ‘dear friends’, it was just who he was/is. He knew my story and loved me unconditionally through it, and was quite possibly the most encouraging and empowering person I have ever met… He called out greatness in everyone. 

Our second loss was a dear friend Marguerite who was 91. She started off as a neighbor and became a grandmother to our children and a mentor of mine. When we lived in Los Altos she was at every holiday, birthday, event and was over every Thursday for “Enchilada Thursday”. Like all of us, she walked a hard road on this earth, yet I was struck by her positive attitude until the end. She was quite possibly the classiest, most driven woman I have ever met… 

And last but certainly not least, my Pastor. It’s still hard to type the words. My dear Pastor Ron is with Jesus. What a thought. He started off a Pastor and became a dear friend.

A man who stood in the gap and loved me unconditionally. He believed in me before I did. He believed in all of us… He empowered me, stood with me, and helped put me in to ministry. He was part of a ‘crew’ of people God put in my life that walked me through my darkest hours. Sitting under his teaching I went from slipping in to Church each Sunday praying no one would notice me, to becoming free… One of his sermons was the inspiration to actually start writing and not just think about it anymore.

He had an anointing of ‘setting the captives free’ and empowering them to be who God intended them to be all along. He taught me that no matter the detour we take, God’s plan will not be thwarted if we submit to His good purpose and plan in our life… He taught me to laugh in the midst of my depression, shame, regret and the tragedies of life. I could go on and on… 

Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his faithful servants.”

As I have been reflecting on the incredible impact, loss and the holes in my life with each of these amazing people moving on to Heaven, I have been struck with a few things I wanted to share. 

#1—With every loss, comes regret. Human nature I guess. I regret not saying more ‘thank you’s’ to each of these amazing human beings. I regret not being more intentional in these relationships. I regret taking for granted even one moment that each of them were here with me on this earth…*side note, “regret” is one of my issues and God is still working with me on it in general… “you can take the girl out of Catholic school, but the Catholic school never leaves the girl”—just being funny. I LOVE and adore my Catholic family and friends! My Catholic upbringing brought a reverence that frankly we evangelicals miss at times… 

#2—I am so blessed. I am so blessed that God graced my life with each of these incredible people. Sometimes it takes the perspective of death for me to actually realize the impact someone had on me. They have all inspired me to live a more passionate, full life. 

#3—I am struck that my life will never be the same for having encountered their love, acceptance, humor and presence in my life. 

A few weeks ago our Church came together for prayer over our Pastor and his family a few days before he passed away. During our time together a wise, passionate, anointed Pastor said “Will you take up the Mantel? Who is going to take up his Mantel?” He was encouraging, empowering and inspiring us all to take up the Mantel of Pastor Ron’s anointing. The ‘mantel’ is basically the essence of someone…the deeper meaning of who they are and what drives them to be. 

And it struck me that we all walk through this life ‘imparting’ and giving things to people. Some good, and some bad. I have a couple of people in my life that are so negative and critical that in every interaction I have to guard my heart, so I don’t pick up their ‘mantels’ of negativity and pain, and pass it on.

So as I have been walking through this time I keep pondering, how do I honor these heroes that have died? I believe we honor them by ‘taking up their mantels’—picking up and being intentional with the good things that made them incredible and hoping somehow they will live on, in me. I believe when a follower of Jesus Christ dies, they are in the presence of God. But I also believe the essence of who they are, can live on in all of us. I believe that is how we keep someone with us.

From Smitty, I want to carry with me his passion and love for people and Jesus. I want to be as empowering and encouraging as he was to everyone I encounter…

From Marguerite, I want to carry her positive attitude through it all and not allow the ‘woes’ of life to kill my drive or my spirit. Oh and to walk with the class that she did would be fantastic too… 

From Pastor Ron, I want to carry the true shame breaking, condemnation free, amazing freedom he imparted to me. He told me “the world needs Dani just as you are.”, I want to carry the ‘mantel’…his passion for the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone. 

Loss is hard. Grief and mourning is so healthy and natural. The closer we are to someone the deeper the sting and loss. However, when we are that close to someone, who they are...their "essence" has a greater impact on us. More of their purpose in life becomes planted in us and in a sense their "essence" can live on through us!

We are all here for a purpose. 

1 Peter 4:10 “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

We all belong to this huge dysfunctional, weird, dynamic creation of humanity. We can change the world, or let the world change us. 

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

All 3 of these friends/heroes were world changers, and I am better for knowing each of them. May they be honored and may the Lord be glorified through the impact they have had on my life. 

I know throughout life we will all have different times of grief and loss as loved ones pass on. I want to encourage you all to mourn and grieve your losses. 

BUT along the way, grab on to those things that inspired you most through their lives, and carry them out yourself! 

Become who you love and admire! 

Lord Jesus, I thank you for being so faithful through it all. Thank you for permission to grieve and mourn and thank you for Your great comfort. Thank you for community and grace. Impart on us the gifts of our loved ones that have passed on and help us to love others and glorify You through it all! Amen.

Grace and Love to you all,

Dani

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