A few years ago, I went to a writing conference where they asked you to look at your life as a story. Put on your Hollywood hat and imagine your journey as a bestselling book or a blockbuster movie. You, of course, are the main character and the people closest to you are supporting characters. You face highs, perhaps even some lows, and each of these serves to shape the main character and build the story.
The purpose of the writing exercise was to be more intentional about how you live your life. If you could script the story, what would you add to make your life more meaningful? What kind of person do you want to be? Who do you want to surround yourself with (those that build you up or tear you down)? These questions allowed you to see how everything contributes to the story we are living, including the painful moments we would rather do without.
In December, my best friend, Charles, passed away. I was devastated. From the outside looking in, someone might wonder how Charles and I ever became friends, especially since there’s a 57-year age difference. Almost 12 years ago, Charles and I became prayer partners during a Stephen Ministry training at our church. He was the oldest trainee at 86 and I was the youngest at 30, so they paired us together to pray for each other during training. We meshed so well, sharing stories and similar interests, that we kept meeting long after the training was done. He laughed at my candor. I soaked up his wisdom.
Charles would become one of the main supporting characters in my life. He prayed for me daily and I did the same for him, but it was the authentic sharing between us that made it such an endearing friendship. He would tell me stories from his life, including the joyful ones of fishing adventures and the sad ones such as losing his wife and son.
I would tell him all the daily things in my world — work, kids, decisions, stress. He would listen carefully and offer up guidance. I also went deeper about how growing up without a dad changes the core of who you are and makes you wonder if you are worthy of love. He was silent. He sent me flowers the next day with a card that read, “You are loved.”
In a world that moves way too fast, Charles was steadfast. He was a prayer warrior. He was an encourager. He knew who he was and who he was not. He spoke wisdom into my life. I was also more intentional with prayer because of Charles. I listened to all his amazing stories and then asked to hear more. I sent him notes to let him know how thankful I was to have him in my life. I hugged him every Sunday at church. I surprised him with books I just knew would rock his world, so we could discuss them together down the road.
Last October, we decided instead of Christmas gifts, we would both buy Bob Goff’s new devotional book, Live in Grace, Walk in Love, and read it each day in 2020 and then discuss the big ideas when we met for lunch. It would be our way of focusing daily on the love of the Lord and also how to love people better.
You know what they say about the best laid plans? Charles went home to the Lord on Dec. 6 at the age of 98. I cried like a baby when they called to tell me the news. When I got home that same evening, Charles’s annual Christmas letter was sitting on my table waiting to be opened. Here are the words he shared:
“We are all on a journey. We make our way through life interacting with the world around us and those in it. We journey as individuals in relationships, first as children, then as young people, finally as adults. Looking back on the journey, I imagine you like me are amazed to see the path taken and the outcomes which have led each of us to the place where we are today. My journey through 2019 has had both joy and sadness — but mostly joy. The sadness was mostly the loss of family and friends. This is always an experience for those who live long lives.”
He finished the letter with a handwritten note of love for me. That was so Charles! He knew I would be terrible at goodbyes, so he sent words of encouragement. Charles was so important to the story of my life. He helped mold me into a better person and never gave up on me. Ever. I’ll be reminded of his love every day this year as I read OUR daily devotional. I’m sure there will be some tears, too. Charles already knew what I am still learning — it is a journey of both joy and sadness, but mostly joy.