Letter #659: The Death of Grandma

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Dear death,

You have a funny way of bringing people together. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the lives of everyone affected, people gather. We are fasciniating creatures. We will halt everything for you. Our aspirations, careers, financial gain, time with people. It doesn’t matter what it is, people stop.

Yet when our loved ones are living, we never seem to be so quick to show up. Major events such as weddings are like pulling teeth, so just an out of the blue phone call to those family members who tend to repeat themselves and who’s ROI on the time spent won’t amount to much probably isn’t happening.

The times we can actually spend with people we often selfishly give up, but when life ends everyone flocks to pay homage. There’s nothing wrong with attending funerals and being present for loved ones. In fact, I believe it brings great closure. But may we also be quick to learn from times of sorrow and invest our time into things that matter.

That being said, a little over a month ago I received a phone call that my Grandma died. Although she was 91, she was healthy, maybe more so than me in some ways, and living at home completely taking care of herself. She lived a LONG life, a full life, but you were still unexpected.

Because of the crazy winter weather, I had the chance to be in Oklahoma longer than I would’ve been otherwise. It was neat to see the Lord’s hand even in the timing of snow allowing me to have extra family time.

Three and a half years ago I started this blog. Let me warn you: Beware. Once you put your writing in public, people expect you to become the family author. Before I was even asked, I’d been chosen to not only write, but also give Grandma’s eulogy. Hello pressure!

Speaking in front of hundreds isn’t necessarily scary to me, but doing it in the midst of emotion as a dead body lies 15 feet away from you”…..exactly. Hello pressure.

Because of extra Oklahoma time, I was able to sit and listen to her three kids and their spouses to gather information about Grandma’s life I never would’ve known otherwise. I felt like an investigative reporter. Gather every fact possible, then begin crafting the actual article.

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I refused to be boring. Nobody likes boring. So I wrote it just like I’d write anything else, laced with jokes and sarcasm”…probably as much for me to make it through as for the audience! I spoke the same way I would at kamp“…LOUD, passion-filled and prayerfully truth-centered.

I longed to give a strong delivery of this eulogy. To honor my Grandma, but also to hopefully display the hope we have in the Gospel in the midst of death. I had unleashed an army to pray for my emotional stability Wednesday night at 7:20, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more confident or steady when speaking”…at least in a venue entailing death. Sure, I read my notes a little more than I would’ve liked, but mostly so I didn’t catch eyes with a family member who’d lost it resulting in me doing the same! My brother-in-law videotaped the whole thing and 45 seconds in, you can hear my voice steady. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, but I felt the power in that moment!

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90th Birthday Celebration! What an honor and privilege it was to call this lady Grandma Brueggen. Thankful for the legacy she has left us with although she is gone.

You truly do have a strange way of bringing people together. The best part is that you have no power over us when a person’s faith has been put in Christ. So often we want to mourn during you and Grandma you sure will be missed, but in reality, when a relationship with Jesus is involved you are the best thing that can happen to us! I think our silly human selves might have a few things backward”…let’s invest our time well while people are alive and tell everyone we can about Jesus so death truly can be a celebration of people going home.

Thankful this is not home,

Apparently a eulogy writer

Letter #613: A Wedding and a Funeral

Dear platforms,

Everyone is looking for his or her own version of you.

Professional athletes. Rockstars. Politicians. You used to have to be in one of these roles to have you. These people still do, but the opportunity to gaining you has grown immensely.

Social media allows anyone to have a voice. Some voices are louder than others, but nevertheless the gate to gaining one of you has widened. I think at the core of us all, we want to be known. We want to be loved. We want to be heard.

However the truth is, we each have an audience watching and listening each day. Sorority sisters. Co-workers. Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Your own children. Neighbors. People are watching. The question is what are we portraying?

Platforms: they’re everywhere. Justin Timberlake, Kevin Durant and Taylor Swift’s are massive. A first grade teacher’s is much smaller yet still impactful. Supervisors of employees set the tone for the entire workplace. Pastors are responsible to communicate the truth of the Gospel.

They may vary in size and severity, but they are all important. However, I believe there are two times in life when you far exceed any other moment.

The greatest two platform opportunities in an individual’s life: one’s wedding and one’s funeral. One we really have no say in. The other we typically get so consumed by details of colors and centerpieces that we miss opportunity altogether.

When I die, I will have no say in how my service goes. Even if I document details I still have no control over what people actually say. However, every person in attendance will be completely focused on the life I lived.

I sat at a funeral this week, and these are the things I was thinking about. Strange, I know. Regardless, it got me thinking. There are two times in life when people have the undivided attention of hundreds of others. The only way I can affect what you look like at my funeral is by how I live in the moments. I pray I end on a worthwhile note. I pray the memories shared are less about me and more about eternal hope in Christ. I pray the choices I’m making today leave a legacy for Christ when I’m dead and gone, but I also pray I maximize my daily platforms as well.

We all have versions of you. Our Twitter handles. Our friend circles. Our employees. Our nieces, nephews and children. Everyone’s looks a little different, but we all have them. Today I am challenged how I’m using you daily. What am I pointing people to? How am I leading and influencing with the platforms I’ve been given?

As I’m reminded to embrace you daily, I’m also challenged to think through what my wedding (prayerfully if it happens one day) and funeral will reflect. There are two times in life we have the biggest platform opportunities. Two times of undivided attention. Our daily platforms are touch and go, but these two are intently focused. How will we use these two days of our lives? What will these platforms point to? Temporary and superficial or eternal and life-changing?

Here’s to strange and challenging thoughts while celebrating the life of a sweet lady,

Platform Recognizer