Exactly one week ago a very wonderful friend left this life and entered into the next. It still seems so unreal that she is gone and I will not see her again until I join her in Heaven some day. I know she is finally free from the pain and suffering she experienced in her battle with cancer and she is singing before the throne of God right now. But I will miss her.
I had the honor of sharing at her funeral service on Sunday and I just wanted to put my words out here in the blogosphere so, in my own way, I can keep her memory alive...
There are some people who have the gift of making others feel welcome, special, and loved. When you are with them you know that they are glad you are there and they wouldn't want to be anywhere else. And neither would you. Diane was one of those people. I know that each of us here experienced that warm feeling that came from being in her presence and feeling that sense of belonging.
My friendship with Diane began as a girl in junior high attending youth camp at Whitehall. Diane was my counselor for several years in a row and the relationship we formed at that time in my life was a true gift from God. You see, I was the shy girl. The one who stayed in the back of the room and watched from the sidelines. I got away with that for many years at camp. Until I was assigned to Diane. She wouldn't let me just observe life from the sidelines. She tried her best to get me to join the group and when I wouldn't, she joined me. As she earned my trust, I slowly let her and others in and learned to love her and camp. I became a part of a wonderful group of friends because of her leading (or maybe a better word would be pushing).
Throughout my high school and college years, Diane was a vital part of my life. Always there to encourage and listen when I needed her. Whenever I was unsure of myself she would always remind me of who I was in Christ and how far I had come since those days of sitting alone on the sidelines. She never stopped pushing me to keep growing in my confidence in myself and in God. Sometimes she encouraged me with a scripture and a hug and sometimes it was on her tiptoes with a finger wagging in my face. She wouldn't accept my excuses or let me fall back into old patterns. And I love her for that.
In my adult years, Diane remained a mentor to me but also became my friend. Our relationship shifted and she gave me the gift of being able to give back as she shared with me some of her struggles and concerns. We enjoyed some sweet conversations and prayer times on her back porch that I will treasure always.
Diane taught me so much, not just in her words, but in the way she lived her life. I learned the art of listening and asking questions, to make people feel welcome, the importance of creating a beautiful environment, to be sensitive to those sitting outside the circle and to bring them in, to invest myself into the life of others, to stay in the Word, to be persistent in prayer, to forgive, and to speak the truth in love. So many things. One of the most important things her life taught me was that you don't have to be loud or have a big personality to have a big impact.
As much as she taught me in her life though, it is in her death that I have learned the most. She showed me how to hold on to hope while accepting what lies before me. She put her focus on the things above. She had strength and dignity and grace. Amazing grace. She trusted God's plan for her and for those she loved. She was an example to us all of how to live and how to die... in the arms of our savior.
I'll never understand why God allows some things to happen. I stopped trying to figure it out a long time ago. Instead, I just trust that His plan is best. I learned that from my friend, Diane.
***I did not say this at the funeral but, Diane, please give my Emma a big hug from her mommy who misses her every single day. I can't wait to see you both.