January 19, 2016, marks the 12-year anniversary since my best friend, Grace, passed away. Tricia, my bestie since kindergarten, and I, were asked by Grace’s family to speak about her at the funeral. At first, I was reluctant. I didn’t know if I could handle it. But after taking a breath and a second to process what was being asked of me, I knew there was no way I could decline the honor.
Last week, as I was cleaning out files and rearranging my office, I came across a folder. Inside was my tribute to Grace. I also found this buddy picture we took back during varsity high school volleyball that I had tucked away as part of an AP project for my government class. It was like I was seeing the picture for the very first time. As I sat there staring at the photograph and reflecting on the day I wrote those words in honor of my friend, I felt in my heart so much gratitude for what my pastor, Rick Bloom, would call a “God wink.” I thought the timing was fitting to share those words with you. For those of you who knew Grace, you can attest to the account that I wrote. For those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing her, I hope this gives you a glimpse into a beautiful life well-lived, and a little insight into the young woman who left a Grace-shaped hole in every heart she ever touched.
(presented January 24, 2014)
I think it’s possible that no one has ever been named more perfectly than Grace. When I looked up the word “grace” in the dictionary I found 15 different meanings. But the very first definition was “harmony or beauty of form, movement or expression.” Anyone who has ever even seen Grace walking down the street is a witness to the light that radiated from her face—not just sometimes, but all of the time. She had a smile that would light up the sun. But Grace was so much more than a pretty face; she was the most selfless person I have ever known. She was willing to give the shirt off her back to someone in need, whether or not she knew them, and there are times that I can recall her giving away her personal possessions willingly and joyfully, without thinking twice about it.
Grace was also very athletic and shined in every sport she played. A good friend of ours, Carrie Hartford, talked last night about Grace’s amazing back row defense on the volleyball court. I played volleyball with Grace as well but I could only play in the front row; I was the middle blocker and an outside hitter. Grace and I always laughed about being the perfect pair because she wasn’t tall enough to play the front row and I was too terrified of getting hit by the ball to play in the back! But one thing that made us different was that Grace just never thought to be afraid of the ball. Her philosophy was simple: “they hit the ball and I dig it.” She went through her whole life that way; no matter what was thrown at her she kept on fighting back. That will always be a great inspiration to me.
Another definition that stood out for me was “a sense of propriety or consideration.” Grace always exemplified this quality, especially in her sickness. Every word she said and every action she took over the past eight months was out of concern for her family and her friends. I was blessed enough to be able to share the past eight months with Grace and there were many things that we talked about. Even in her most difficult times, when I would visit her in the hospital, she was always more concerned about me than she was about her own condition. The most reassuring thing that she told me in our countless conversations was back in July after she’d had her first surgery. She said, “You know, Lauren, I’m not afraid to die because I know where I’m going. I just don’t want to right now.” From that point on, I knew that whatever happened, everything was going to be okay.
There are many ways to define Grace but none fully conveyed what Grace means to me… so I put it in a letter.
For my Grace:
How special I must be that God tailored the perfect angel and put her in the perfect body—just for me. The bond we had goes beyond a friendship; you are my sister. There is no one who knows me like you, no one with whom I can sit in silence for hours and walk away feeling absolutely stimulated and encouraged. As I write this, I can feel your arms around me—even at the very thought of your name—and I pray that communion never goes away.
I have not known a person with such passion as yours, a passion for life and for loving other people. You were a living example of God’s grace and I know you were purposed to show others how to love. I am so blessed to be the one who introduced you to the best friend anyone could ever have: Jesus. And I am so grateful for the spiritual relationship we shared that thrived for the nine and a half years that followed. In the past eight months, you have taught me much about two of the most important tools in life…courage and hope. I can only hope for half the strength that you have exemplified during a time that was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. You are my hero.
Grace, I know you were only here for a short while but you touched more hearts in 25 years than most people touch in a lifetime. Nothing hurts more than the reality that you won’t be here for me to touch your hand or kiss your face, but nothing gives me more joy than the knowledge and understanding that now you are supping with Jesus. I love you more than anyone could ever know and I am thankful that I was able to show you that.
Thank you so much for choosing to share your life with me and for giving me your friends and your family. I know that I will never share with anyone what I shared with you but I pray that God will show me how to carry on your legacy and always be the blessing to others that you were to me. God bless and keep you while I miss you…