Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Life Well Lived

I attended a memorial service yesterday for someone I did not know.

Alene had noticed earlier in the week an obituary piece for someone named Sylvia Hatfield. Sylvia had been a friend of Alene's mother Barbara. Barbara and Sylvia, along with many others, had been involved in several community groups over the years before Barbara died in 1994. Alene had worked with and known Sylvia and several of the other women involved in Soroptomists and other groups for years, and Liz had grown up in their midst, so it was fitting they attended the memorial.

I tagged along cuz, well, that's what good boyfriends do.

Seeing as how we are studying Ecclesiastes in Sunday School, and reading about the "meaninglessness of life" and how there is nothing new under the sun, I have to say this memorial gave me hope, and lifted my spirits in a way few memorials have.

Mainly because it was about family.

Sylvia died at about 94 years old. She and her husband (who died in the 80s) had four children, and have about 5 or 6 grandchildren. This is nothing special among families, but what was special was the way they spoke about their mother and grandmother.

Sylvia apparently had a warmth and charm about her that endeared her to her children. The kids all spoke of her giving spirit, her humor ("seriously funny" was how she was described), and her constantly open home.

She and her husband had apparently done well for themselves, and had a lovely home set on several acres out in Carmichael, back when some of it was still rural. Time and again it was mentioned how not only her own, but the neighborhood kids would be in and out of the house, playing, sharing, eating.... doing what kids do. It was clear from both her children and her grandchildren, this was a warm, loving home.

And that's when it hit me. Life can be meaningless, but when we give it meaning, life can be filled with joy. That's what Sylvia did, by my judgement. She gave her life meaning in her family.

The outpouring of love shown by her children and grandchildren at this memorial clearly highlighted the relationship Sylvia had with her descendants. The kind words, especially a poem read by one the her grand-daughters which equated "grandma" as another word for "love", were bountiful and sincere. It's clear that the relationships cultivated within their family are honest and warm.

I left the memorial with a feeling of joy, which is not common for memorials. Many are sad, sorry affairs, with the family grieving the loss of a loved one. This was a celebration of a life well-lived, and of a mother, a grandmother, and a wife well-loved.

My hope and prayer, for anyone reading this, is that we could take lessons from those who are "well-loved" around us. Not those who ingratiate themselves to get ahead, or to cultivate favor from family and friends, but those that truly love their family, and care for them, and wish the best for them, and help them to achieve.

Life isn't meaningless, necessarily, but it must have purpose. God is, of course, the ultimate giver of life, and obeying and worshiping God is our highest purpose, but God created families and friends as well as the birds and sky.

To love God without loving your neighbors (brothers, sisters, parents, kids, co-workers, whoever is in your life) is foolishness, because God loves them as well as He loves you or me. Jesus said whoever hates his brother cannot love God.

I didn't know Sylvia Hatfield. Never met her, never heard of her, never talked about her before yesterday. But, clearly, a life well-lived has influence well beyond our expectations, and Sylvia's life even reached out after her death to touch me, by the evidence she left behind in her family.

I want to have a life well-lived. That's my prayer for all my friends. Live life well so others will be glad you lived your life with them.

1 comment:

Bstermyster said...

This post has really touched me. I struggle very much with the "life is meaningless" thing. I seem to be saying to myself more and more that nothing we do on this earth even matters because we will one day be leaving it.

You are right though you can have joy, I have been experiencing that with my husband and the new baby. I can barely stand the thought of him being taken away. Praying it doesn't happen and obeying and worshiping the lord in the midst of this. I do have hope - his name is Jesus.