This past week was amazing. It was amazingly bittersweet because I watched one of my dearest sister friends lay her beloved mom to rest. But what was amazing to me, was the Memorial Service held at Sharon Baptist Church in Philadelphia, which is Pastored by Bishop Keith W. Reed, Sr. I have never been to a Memorial service like this before. I truly watched “radical love” play out in a way I had not quite seen before.
Let me Explain.
My sister friend Kim and her mom were very close, just like me and my mom are close. They were inseparable. Kim is an only child, I am not. And like all of her close friends when we heard that “Mommy Barb” passed away, I was worried how she would do at the funeral. But before the funeral this past Friday in Philadelphia, Kim called me and asked me to write something and read it at the Memorial service. Of course, I agreed to do so. Her mom was a sorority sister of mine, her light and love radiated to all who knew her.
But what struck me was the way in which Kim honored all her mother asked of her, even in death. Kim instructed us all that we were to wear light colors, pastels, pinks, greens, cool summer colors. Kim and her dad did well at the service. We celebrated Barbara’s life, we gave her a wonderful send off at the grave site, pink and green balloons were released into the sky-we were all heart broken for Kim and her family, but the way they loved on that day was in a word: radical.
But it was the after celebration that we had back in New Jersey at Kim’s house that really touched us all. We did not cry, wail, weep or mourn. We laughed, we danced, we remembered, we had good drink and even better food. We honored our friend and loved one’s memory by loving her, and embracing all the goodness she left behind. And she did.
Kim made clear to me that although she was of course devastated at the loss of her mom from her life, she was not going to live out or act as if she was broken by her loss. She honored her “mommy” while she lived. They laughed together. Traveled together. Loved each other. There were no regrets. Love never forgets.
Excerpts of what I wrote in my remarks at the service are below:
The one thing that we all come to recognize at some point in our life’s journey is that from the moment we are born, we are slowly marching toward death. Life is the beginning that none of us remembers, and death is the victory that none of us forgets.
A great poem was written a few years ago titled, “The Dash” by author and poet Linda Ellis. The dash poem is simple really; it speaks to us in very clear terms that we can all understand: Life is not about how you begin, or even how you finish. Life is all about how you LIVE during the middle, during your “dash”.
The dash is that little marker that goes on every grave headstone, every obituary, on every remembrance. It fits neatly between the day we are born and the day we must die. It tells the world that we were here for whatever brief or long moment—but be clear we are only here for a moment.
We all wonder about the day that we too shall die. Particularly as we age. One day, there will be someone standing here speaking about your life and mine, someone reading your eulogy and mine, sharing your journey and mine. It is true. The question then we must all ask ourselves is for the short time I am here, how will I live out my dash faithfully and renewed.
The saying goes that life belongs to those who choose to live it. Barbara embodied this maxim. She lived her 68 year long dash, and she lived it with no regrets. If you ask me, the authentic legacy of our lives is not so much in what we achieve but in what we leave behind. Bobbie as she was fondly called left behind love.
So as we all leave on this warm August day, I challenge you to meet your better selves, to love more, to do more, to give more:
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
-Linda Ellis (from The Dash)
In the final analysis, we will all die. The question is how we will live. Radical love requires that we cover our loved ones, colleagues, friends. Radical love requires us to honor others before ourselves. Radical love says we push through the pain to our purpose. Radical love says I can forgive you. I can restore you. I can learn from you. Radical love does not have its own way. It is not puffed up. Radical love, loves us through our living and even when we die. Be blessed on this Sunday.
Be a radical lover!