A Fitting Day to Say Goodbye

Yesterday was a pretty tough day. My wife and I did something that hands down ranks way up on the scale of the toughest things we’ve ever done.

You see, yesterday afternoon was the celebration service for someone we loved who had died. Now this isn’t to say we were the closest to this person than anyone else, in fact there are probably large numbers of people closer to this family than I will ever be. But we still loved this amazing person, and our lives were touched in an amazing way by this person, and the family.

For it wasn’t the closeness to the family that created the bond, it was the disease. Yesterday was the service for a little girl named Laura. She died a week ago at the age of seven from Mitochondrial disease. Her family lives in Loganville and are active members at the Orchard Church. (In fact, Pastor Ben Cathy mentions a little about Laura in his weekly post in the Loganville-Grayson Patch).

Laura did not have the easiest of lives, in fact it was quite the opposite. She started out with a lengthy stint in the ICU, and was an all to frequent visitor to the ‘Ritz (aka Scottish Rite). Her mom would often joke that Laura especially loved holidays spent in the Hospital since it seemed they were there for many of them. Laura had a host of medical problems that made her life a little more challenging for all involved. Her mom could go to work as an Pediatric Intensive Care nurse without the need for any schooling, or testing. Laura was her schooling and her testing, and she passed with flying colors.

We were honored to be among those who attended the celebration of her life yesterday at The Orchard Church (along with hundreds of others). There were a couple of things that struck me especially hard while there:

Mito plays for keeps.

It’s always a nasty reminder of how rough this disease is when we hear of someone who has lost their battle with Mito. It is an unfortunate reality that many will eventually succumb to this disease.

We are blessed.

Every time I open my eyes to the world around me and see the struggles that others face I realize just how good I have it. It is so very easy to become focused on my own set of needs and struggles and “how bad” I have it, but it resets my perspective when I see what others go through. It’s good for me to have the “reset” button mashed on my perspective from time to time. I would presume the same could hold true for each of you as well.

This was a life that was valuable.

It was hard not to think about the post from a week or so ago, where I broached the subject of the value of a life. The question posed was if a less “perfect” life was less valuable, and what the determination was for determining worth. The discussion was staggering for me. What I witnessed today was equally staggering.

Laura never spoke a word in her seven short years, but she spoke into the lives of countless others, and changed their lives in a way that many can’t understand.

It was amazing to hear Laura’s Pastor, her Mom, brother, cousin, Grandfather, close family friend, Physical Therapist, (which as I must add is the absolute best physical therapist there is. Period.), and others speak about Laura. Everyone mentioned her smile. She had a smile that could light up a room. She smiled with her whole body, and it was impossible not to smile back at her. Everyone testified to lives changed because of this little girl who was nowhere near “perfect” according to the standards of the world.

It is impossible to make a claim that Laura’s life was any less valuable than mine (or yours) when you looked around the room. The church was full of people touched by her life. On an afternoon when many are normally spending time with family hundreds of people made the decision to instead spend time remembering Laura.

The decision to remember her life on Easter seemed especially fitting to me. It was the perfect choice. Not because of egg hunts, or the Easter bunny, but because of what Easter represents for the Christian.

Easter is a day for the Christian to remember and reflect on Jesus Christ resurrecting from the dead. Dead three days, yet alive (just as He promised I might add). This was the ultimate defeat for death. It was showing that Jesus is stronger than anything, even the grave, and because of His resurrection we can look forward to seeing Laura again. Because she’s not really dead. Her flesh failed her. However the Bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. She has a new body now. One that doesn’t suffer from the effects of Mito. One that doesn’t rely on a wheelchair for transportation, or lines and needles for medication or nutrition. No, her body is perfect. I can only imagine what Laura has been doing in Heaven this past week. I’m not convinced that she has stopped running or talking yet.

Her life touched many people, myself included.

She lived a less than perfect life, but she showed all of us just how valuable that life could be.

I would bet that you could ask anyone of the people at that service and they would tell you exactly the same thing- not only was Laura incredibly valuable, she was perfect, and no mistake.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

-Psalm 139:13-16

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