Where To Find Hope?
It was a crisp, fall Monday morning when a bit of hard news came my way.
Selina had passed away. This is my Taiwanese friend from 10+ years ago who lived a remarkable life. She faced an unusual cancer diagnosis in her twenties. I shared about that experience in an earlier post. Selina then went on to live a productive, cancer-free life for many years.
During this time, she grew deep and wide in her Christ-following faith, and led many, including family members, into relationship with Jesus. Selina knew how to find hope, and she endeavored to share that with others.
When I learned about her death from a mutual friend via a Facebook message, I felt the dual emotions of shock and relief course through my mind and body. Not long ago, I had become aware Selina was sick again.
An Unusual Memorial
In fact, two months earlier some friends had created a special Facebook event in her honor. The project originated from conversations these friends had with Selina. Here is a translated excerpt from the page:
“During these past four months as her cancer has recurred, we have had opportunities to talk with Selina about what she would like for her funeral. In the end, we came to the conclusion what she really wanted was a farewell party she could be a part of, on a global scale, one while she is still breathing.”
So, they went on to create a Facebook group where people could post anything they wanted to share with Selina – to encourage her, to bless her, to thank her. I made a small video and posted the link. I know she got a chance to see it before she passed because she “liked” it. But it felt so meager. How could I possibly convey all I wanted to say?
Goodbyes are Important
Still, I was glad I didn’t hesitate to participate in this project. I’m glad I took time to say that final farewell – at least on this earth. I am so grateful that our family was able to spend some time with her in Taipei in 2010, when she was healthy and strong and could share with me all the ways God was moving in her life. During that time, we even got to meet her father, brother, and several of her friends and students
Selina had shared about Jesus and the way he had healed her and how through this struggle, she was able to find hope. She claimed Jesus had given her life new purpose. And she shared that with her whole family.
Her father was in a wheelchair and sick when I met him, but he had a grin from ear to ear and shared, through Selina, that the joy of the Lord was his strength. He, too, was able to find hope.
Her mom, a staunch Buddhist, was not convinced. But when she became quite ill – also with cancer – she prayed to Buddha and asked for healing. Nothing came. Then she admitted that she may as well consider Jesus. She prayed to meet Jesus. And a couple days later, she passed away – and did!
Selina’s life accounted for much. She taught at a university. She mentored scores of college-aged men and women. And she powerfully shared the hope that was in her so that others would also be able to find hope.
Learning From Past Mistakes
I’m so glad I acted and took those moments to add to “The Selina Impression Project.” I’m so glad I didn’t put it off. I’m notorious at piling up the “to dos” and never getting to something like that.
But I’ve learned the hard way, sadly, that when death is involved, or old age is threatening life, you can't simply buy time.
Several years ago someone I cared about deeply (the Foreign Student Advisor at my graduate school, with whom I had developed a close relationship) passed away suddenly from a stroke. We had a pending lunch date that never happened. I hadn’t followed up properly and now it was never going to happen. I realized I had to come to peace with that, but it was a hard lesson to learn nonetheless.
This time with Selina, I feel as if I had said my proper goodbyes. But the sting of loss remains, and, although I know she is now pain-free with Jesus, it is still hard. I miss this precious, vibrant soul. Even though our everyday lives had not intersected for awhile, in my mind and heart, she was still “there.”
I take comfort believing our separation is only temporary. We will be together again
From the Book of Romans in the New Testament (8:35, 38-39):
"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Still, I recognize, it is human to grieve. That, too, is part of a full and worthwhile life.
How do you deal with the loss of close friends?
Image Credit: Unsplash on Pixabay