I was at church this morning, trying to comfort a woman whose dear friend has only a few days left to live. Her beautiful inside-and-out friend who was beloved by so many of us went from feeling a little run down to having a terminal diagnosis in a matter of weeks.
We know where our friend and sister in Christ is going. We know that she will be in perfect health and peace when she gets there. But it’s hard to let go. We talked about our prayers for her husband and family in light of this loss. I promised to pray for the woman who is losing a close friend, too.
Then I saw something through the glass doors of our church that disturbed me. An elderly couple whom I have loved for more than fifteen years was outside.
The two of them have been leaders in our church for years. I remember him telling someone who was upset about a potential church move (which we did eventually make) that it was God’s church and not his. I remember their faithful presence in Bible class and their commitment to witnessing to our neighbors. I remember her oohing and aahing over my babies.
I remember so many church services that ended with them asking how I was and what was happening with our family. As my kids grew older, I remember my gratitude for their intentional conversations with my teens and their compliments of them, sometimes when I needed to hear them the most.
I remember the first stroke he had. I remember his acceptance as he described the results and his prediction that his symptoms would eventually get worse, not better. I wondered if I would have as much grace and a smile in his circumstances.
I remember the day she seemed confused and couldn’t find their car. I wondered how they would get along if she had dementia. I remember my relief when she remembered the lost car incident from the week before.
This morning when I saw this beloved couple outside before I had had the chance to say good-bye, I ran. They don’t move quickly any more, but I couldn’t take the chance of missing them. Anything could happen. And I wanted to make sure I saw them and hugged them and said good-bye. She thanked me for running out. It was as though she knew what I was thinking.
I was thinking that we never know when it’s the last time we’ll see someone this side of heaven.
It’s so easy to continue talking on the phone or staring at a screen or walking to our own car and miss the opportunity to say good-bye. I didn’t want to do that and live with regret.
I ran. And I’m going to keep running. I’m going to run to my husband’s car if I’m busy and cranky and didn’t say good-bye before he goes out of town. I’m going to run after my college kids as they get ready to go back to school. And I’m going to run after my friends if they slip away during a party at my home. Saying good-bye is too important not to.
That’s why I ran. I hope that from now on, you will too.