This weekend we celebrated the life of my Aunt Janet. My Aunt Janet has always been special to me, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I truly grasped what an incredible person she was. Not everyone can say when they leave this world they leave a legacy, but she is. At her service there were at least 1,000 people in attendance and from what I hear at least 4,000 have viewed her service online. To put it simply, she made an impact. I truly regret not having spent more time with her, which leads me to why I am writing this post today. I learned a lot during this weekend. Janet knew her time to be with Jesus was coming and she was not afraid, in fact she was ready. In the last conversation I had with her she told me how impatient she was getting that Jesus hadn’t taken her home yet. In her 2 year battle with cancer, her faith never failed. She was a devoted friend to Jesus and made sure that everyone she met had the chance to become His friend too. At her service, which she planned, we worshiped together and had an invitation for those who may not know Christ as their personal Savior.
I took away a lot from her this weekend, but I wanted to share just 10 of the things I learned.
1.) God’s plan is greater than any diagnosis.
We all believed Janet would be physically healed. I told people all the time. I believed it firmly in my heart. I never doubted once, until the final few weeks when I started getting the calls that it was terminal. Even then, I said “ok God, terminal just means you need to work a miracle”. About a week before Janet went to be with Jesus it hit me. I don’t believe God ever intended for her to be physically healed. He used her to show an outstanding, supernatural way a person can keep their faith during a difficult time and still spread His name. Janet did that all the time. She kept a blog (I Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills) and had countless followers whose lives have been forever changed by her journey. Most “regular” people like me and you who don’t get public exposure like celebrities or national figures do not have 1000 people at their funerals and definitely don’t have a live stream service with 4,000 views and counting. The name of Jesus is still being spread because of her faith. Now, this does not make it any easier that she is gone. It may not be fair. And I cannot begin to imagine the pain that her husband and kids will feel for a long time because of her absence.
I so am thankful to have been a part of Janet’s life and can say that even in her last moments and beyond, she has changed me.
2.) Grieving Sucks
I don’t understand grief. I’m not good at it. A friend told me “I wouldn’t want to be good at grief it means you have too much practice.” He was right, but I would still have liked to have a better warning at how poorly I was going to handle the whole thing. Maybe everyone does? Maybe that’s the point. I knew the day was coming for her to pass, so when my father called to give me the news, I did not cry. In fact, I never cried until I saw her in the casket. Seeing her in the casket made the whole experience REAL. I came to realize that through grief, you do find mercy in seeking Jesus. He is there if you listen. At the service, the youth pastor put it perfectly. Janet always signed off her blogs with Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” He said that this scripture is hard. It is hard because on a day when we are having a funeral for someone, it is hard to rejoice. We don’t want to rejoice. We want to be selfish and have them here. But, because of eternal life and the possibility of seeing them again, we CAN rejoice. We can rejoice because of Jesus.
3.) Time Flies
It’s cliché but it’s true. My son is 16 and I am already dreading the day he graduates from high school. All of the “don’t worry” verses in the Bible are tough for me. I cannot remember what it was like having a 3 year old or what we did for his 12th birthday. Time flies. My husband and I have been together since high school and while I am thankful for our time together, I want to ensure that the rest of our life together is spent creating meaningful memories and not worrying about things that aren’t eternity bound. Time flies. I plan to have more purpose with my time, creating memories and being with (not just around) the people who matter.
4.) Be intentional
This is a tough one. In today’s time we think that a quick text or a facebook message gets the point across, and sometimes it does. Most of the time, I’d prefer texting over talking. However, after watching Janet’s video this weekend and seeing the impact she had on people’s lives I see how intentional she was with her time. She was intentional with people. She would go out of her way to say hello to someone. Many times, if I see someone in a grocery store, even that I like, I will go out of my way to avoid a conversation. This has to change. I know my tomorrow isn’t promised. 3 years ago I was given a second chance at life, and I know I have not done everything worthy and honorable with that chance.
5.) “Don’t worry about mean people because mean people suck”
This was Janet’s advice to the youth pastor. Mean people do suck.
6.) It’s ok to cry.
I really hate to cry. I don’t even watch “cry movies” because hate crying that much. I’ve never seen the Notebook and have no intention to. I’ll take Rambo over a chick flick any day. That being said, sometimes it’s ok to cry. Confession time: One of my biggest, most vain and pettiest worries about Janet dying was me getting the call at work because I didn’t want people to see me cry. Janet recorded a video in her last week and in it, she said goodbye to her family and friends. In the video, she cried. I know she wasn’t crying because she was sad she was dying. She wasn’t afraid. I don’t know what emotions she was feeling. But what I do know is she cried. She wasn’t afraid to cry. That was one of the most impactful moments of the entire service for me. Janet was vulnerable enough to show people her tears. I am thankful for that.
7.) Sunflower seeds, cokes, roller coasters and Jesus
Memories. These are 3 things that stand out when I think of my Aunt Janet. She used to pick me up in the summers and take me back to Temple to stay with her and my Uncle Tony. On road trips, she would eat sunflower seeds and drink a coke to stay awake. So I picked up the habit. I still do it to this day. Janet is partly to blame for my fearlessness. Her and my father used to bribe me (and torture me) to get on roller coasters. They did it until the fear was gone. She is the reason I want to go sky diving. I want to go now more than ever! Jesus. When I think of Jesus I think of Janet. I don’t know another person whose walk matched their faith like Janet’s did. She is who Jesus commands us to be. She acted with the hands, feet and mouth of Jesus. At the end of the day, memories are what we are creating with people. Whether they are small like how to stay awake on a road trip or how to live your life as Jesus did, memories stay with us.
8.) Words matter
During part of Janet’s service, they took time to read letters written by the youth about her. Several of them were memories, but the vast majority spoke about the impact that Janet had with her words. Janet always had a kind word to say. She incorporated Jesus into conversations and cared about people. My biggest issue isn’t always what I say, but how I say it. My prayer going forward is that my words and my tone will be loving and kind. I want my words to be used to build people up, and not tear people down. I am thankful for my husband’s forgiving heart and the Lord’s grace in this area because I certainly need it.
9.) I miss Jesus
2013 was a ‘blah’ spiritual year for me. I went through the motions, but was “lukewarm”. My faith never failed, but it never grew either. I’m learning that treading water is tiring. I also know that Jesus never left, I just put Him on the back burner to Facebook, work, housework, sleep, TV, etc. He’s been waiting and still providing. Always faithful. It’s time for me to start swimming again.
10.) Peace out suckas!
In her final video, Janet’s last words were “peace out suckas!, I love you all.” with a peace sign and all. Totally fitting. We are the suckas still here on Earth while she’s up there in Heaven in her new mansion hanging with Jesus.
In 2014, Facebook will no longer be a priority but personal growth and my relationship with Jesus and my family will be. I’ll be blogging more in 2014. I’m excited to see what the New Year brings.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24