Update: At my cousin’s Celebration of Life, she requested that my dad preach her funeral and offer a public invitation. God touched the life of a woman in attendance and she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. This woman did not have the pleasure of even knowing Lisa, but her husband had attended school with her. We rejoice that a woman came to know Him as a result of Lisa’s death. In death, new life was born!
As a Senior in High School, we were told we would need to have a Senior quote for the yearbook. For this lover of words, I had the hardest time narrowing down which words would leave the greatest mark on the lives of others, the biggest impact on me, or be the biggest constant in my life. At the time, I was reading through Psalms, and being at a Christian boarding school, I thought, “Well, what better Senior quote than a verse of Scripture.” Seemed fitting. I didn’t know just how fitting until this week, though, 20 years later. You see, my quote ended up being,
“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 NIV
I’ve kind of lived my life thinking, “Why in the world did you choose that?” It always sounded like kind of a downer verse for me to choose as a 17 yr. old about to graduate from High School because of the “flesh and my heart may fail” part. Sure, I saw the hope there, but all in all, I just always questioned why I chose it.
Over the last few months, I have stood by and watched as my cousin, Lisa, fought a courageous battle over cancer. Cancer would like to say it won, but we all know that Jesus won that victory as Lisa is now running the streets of heaven, most likely telling everyone what to do, and even more likely gathering everyone for fun and cooking a meal for them. Yes, I know that’s probably not biblical, but that’s scenario that I keep seeing because that’s who she was. You see, Lisa, without a doubt in my body, was a lover of LIFE. She knew how to live at full steam ahead. Sure, she has a story of trial and lots of tough living, but in the moments of life that mattered most, she epitomized “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” In the last days I visited with her, there was a lot about her that was altered due to being on medications, and the fact that cancer was ravaging her body, but the singular thing that never wavered was her love for others. As I stood in her bedroom with her, telling her goodbye so I could go pick up my girls from school, I knew this would probably be the last time I would see her on Earth. She grabbed hold of me and said, “Cousin, don’t go. Stay here and let me hug you and love you,” and she proceeded to lock me in a bear hug, and no way was I going anywhere. That was Lisa’s last gift to me. Our family has always been close, but I can honestly say that Lisa made the biggest impact on me these last few months. It all became clear for me that she had lived a life that defined loving well. She loved without prejudice, without excuses. She simply loved.
All of those years ago, choosing that Senior quote meant something to me because I knew that I wanted to live my life in complete abandon to God, and along the way God has given me the gift of seeing people who have done it well. Today, I head to the funeral of one who, in the darkest, hardest times of life, she clung to her Portion, to her Strength, to her God, and she did it well. She fought well. She lived well. She loved well. Thank you, Lisa, for leaving a mark of love on this world. Your flesh and heart may have failed, but in the end, your life, to me especially, pointed directly to the One to whom I cling. Today people will know Him because of you.