Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saying My Good-byes

Yesterday, someone dear to me died. Laurie Strand took her last breath on this earth at around 10:30 am, surrounded by the people who mattered most to her, her beautiful husband and kids. The truth is, everyone mattered to Laurie. She never met a stranger. She never overlooked anyone. Laurie, as I described her in my book, Picturing the Face of Jesus, exuded the face of welcome. If you've read my book, or ever do, the Laurie at the end of the first chapter is this Laurie, one of the most unique, funny, spiritually sensitive and gracious people I have ever known.

My daughter and I were talking about being at their son, Jon's, wedding. Britt followed Laurie in the banquet line. All the people before them moved through, piling high their plates, never even noticing the servers. Not Laurie. She stopped, engaged each one and asked, "How's your day going?" and made sure to thank them.

The story I tell of her in my book is about how she met a bunch of homeless kids on the bridge in Broad Ripple. It was her birthday, so she invited them to come over the next night to celebrate--not just her birthday, but all the birthdays they had missed. Laurie served them on her china, had candles and fresh flowers on the table, and a back pack on each chair filled with toiletries.

One of the most memorable times David and I had with Laurie and Greg was a dinner in their home. Toward the end of the meal, after lovely food and rich conversation, Greg, very naturally and without fanfare, took some bread and wine and offered us communion. In turn, we returned the gesture. I had never had such an intimate experience of the Lord's table. I will never forget it.

This last October, Laurie and her daughter Liz came over after my back surgery and cleaned my entire house--top to bottom! She lay on my bed and talked to me about how much she loved my girls and prayed for them. She even had a unique vision about our youngest daughter--one I look forward to sharing with Brooke some day.

When she found out in February that the cancer had returned, I went to see her. She told me then of an experience she had a few months previously. She was at home in her office working on the computer when she suddenly felt as though someone walked into the room. She looked around expecting to see Greg. No one was there. Then she sensed the Lord say, "It's me. I've come to take you home." At the time, she had no idea what it meant, but had a vision of a spiral staircase with all these believers climbing up toward heaven. As each came to the top, they stepped off into heaven. (You just have to understand--that's how Laurie saw things--she often had visions.)

A few weeks ago, Laurie and Greg and Liz and JD were able to come over for lunch. Our two oldest kids were with us, as well. Laurie wasn't feeling well, was very sick to her stomach and in pain. Yet, God gave so much grace to us and we had the most tender time together. She spoke frankly of the cancer and her death. We cried together--at least all the girls did. We hugged and, in a way, said our goodbyes.

Today, I remain on the verge of tears, my heart so very heavy. I can't wrap my mind around how someone so vibrant, with such a beautiful spirit--someone the world so desperately needs--could be gone from here. It just doesn't seem right or possible. How do I say my goodbyes? I really don't know.