I said my good-byes yesterday to a precious friend who has forever changed the lives of my entire family. It was a bittersweet good-bye. I was privileged to write and give the eulogy for my friend and express what was in my heart. Many of you who read my blog were a friend of Christina, but were not able to attend the funeral. It was packed with people who came to pay their respects. I would guess there were 300 people there. After the funeral, there was no mass exit. Instead, there was a gathering a people who just didn’t seem to want to leave. It was almost as if there was nowhere to go. She was loved by so many.
On Sunday, I am in a skit, ironically on death. I am dedicating it to my friend, who I know would have laughed her head off and just loved it.
As my last good-bye, I am sharing what I wrote and shared about my friend. I have had the privilege of speaking to many, many churches and groups in the past few years, but never was there a higher honor than this.
Good-bye my dear friend! I loved you beyond words and will never forget you.
There are those certain people in your life that you always picture yourself growing old with. They are your greatest companions, your closest confidants, the ones you enjoy life to the fullest with, share your greatest triumphs and deepest pains with and who just seem to melt into your life. Christina was one of those people.
I remember the day I met Christina and Ashley. I had heard about this woman who had given her life to Christ along with her husband Keith on Easter Sunday to only loose Keith one week later. She had made our church her home and was seeking friendship. She was never looking for sympathy or someone to pity her, just a friend. We found each other at church that day and our friendship began. We welcomed the two of them into our home group and ultimately into our lives.
I often was amazed at how well they seemed to fit into our family and how easy it was to love them. My husband often joked that she could come back anytime as long as she brought her macaroni salad, but truly she was loved like a sister by him. Chad and I both stood by and celebrated when Christina was baptized and later Christina and I stood by and celebrated as Chad baptized Ashley along with our children. Christina and Ashley were at the hospital moments after my youngest son was born, loving on him and covering him with kisses. When he was old enough to talk, he called her Nina and she loved that. When I say that we considered them our family, I do not take that term lightly.
One of my favorite memories of Christina was in July 2004 when our families went on a 7-day cruise together. Christina and I took the 6 kids on an excursion into the jungles of Belize to see the native animals in a sanctuary there. We were caught in a 20-minute downpour with no umbrellas, followed by sun and major humidity. As we stood there with soaked clothes, frizzed out hair and no traces of make-up, a terrible smell started coming from Christina’s direction. I started to think, “Poor Christina. The rain and humidity is making her have terrible body odor.” As we moved towards the next exhibit, I realized it wasn’t Christina but the wild hogs in that exhibit that were emitting such an odor. Always one to know when to put her foot into her mouth, I said, “Oh! It’s the pigs that smell. I thought it was you.” She laughed out loud, and said, “It is ok. I really thought it was you, too.”
Christina was a daughter, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a teacher and a friend.
Christina was a giver in the truest sense of the word. Our Christmas tree is adorned with homemade ornaments that she made for us every year. She loved to give from the heart and her talents. She helped paint our pastors office and redecorate it as a surprise for him. We laughed our heads off as what was supposed to be burgundy paint turned out to be dark pink. We worked in Women’s Ministry and even in a hilarious Christmas skit in which we were God’s angels sent to prepare the world for the coming King, except we dressed and acted like Charlie’s Angels. I think Ashley asked her to never do that again. She made meals for those who needed them. She never let one of her friends birthdays go by without a celebration. And her gifts were always a reminder that your friendship was special and important to her.
Christina had love and compassion for everyone she came in contact with. She spoke highly of her family and did not seem to let the distance dampen their relationship. As a mom, she was incomparable. Her love for Ashley was unbridled and she did the job of mother and father as close to perfection as she possibly could. Ashley was always first in her life and she always spoke of how proud she was of her. She took her job as a teacher seriously and loved those children passionately. Her care and concern and excitement over their achievements and success always spilled over into her after school life. She never looked at teaching as a job, but as an opportunity to influence and build success in her students. Christina loved animals, big and small. One time when Christina and I went away with some other girlfriends to a getaway in the boonies, two abandoned puppies found us. They were literally starving to
death, covered in ticks and desperate for help. They were as sure as dead if they stayed where they were at. We fed them our dinner, which was a pretty good dinner and Christina made the decision to take them home. We cried together as we pulled out their ticks and cleaned them up, wondering who could ever do this to an animal. We loaded them up and brought them home. That was how Oreo became Ashley’s dog.
And Christina loved the Lord and she loved learning about Him. She relied on Him heavily during those first few years after Keith’s death. Her strength came from Him, and through Him she felt that she could get through anything. She had told me that one of her favorite verses was Isaiah 40:31 which says, “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” She knew firsthand the renewing power of relying on the Lord and the dramatic effect that can have on a life.
And now as we say good-bye to our friend, our sister, our mother, our daughter, our aunt way too soon, I think that Christina would want us to believe those words for ourselves. If we trust in the Lord through this devastating loss, our strength to go on will be renewed, we will soar again, we will run and not grow weary of the race that we are in, and we will walk through the life that is in front of us, no matter how different it looks now, and we will not faint.
And even though the circumstances surrounding Christina’s death leave us all deeply saddened, we know that because Christina gave her life to the Lord on that precious Easter Sunday, He walked faithfully beside her from that moment on, and He was with her when she took her last breath. Then, as He promised, she woke up in the arms of the one who takes away all our burdens. Whatever burdens she carried are gone. She is at peace in His arms of love.
I will miss you, my friend