I went to the funeral of a dear friend’s dad earlier this week. We all knew this day was a possibility over the last year of fighting cancer, but we had hoped hard and prayed harder that the outcome would include more years, cuddles, and laughter for this beautiful family. We knew a funeral was a possibility and yet his passing felt sudden, like a shock to the heart.
To be honest, when I heard he had finally passed, I was angry. I was hurt and bitter and confused. I have known Roger since I fourteen-years-old when he first started cheering his daughter and I on at our tennis matches (we were doubles partners throughout high school) and I have seen his life unfold over the last 11 years. Over and over this week all I can think is that this patient man with two adopted children, two biological, and a wife he adored deserved a miracle, if anyone ever has. Perhaps that’s a silly thing to say, that someone deserves a miracle. Every sick person on the planet should be able to go home and be healthy. Or maybe none of us deserve miracles. But as I was standing too close to the glass of this situation all I could see was Roger hugging and playing with his two adopted children from Taiwan and China, the way he doted on his wife, the way he made you feel like he had all the time in the world when he asked you how you were, and the pride and affection he showed his two children in their twenties. If anyone deserved a miracle, Roger did, even though it may be a silly thing to say. If anyone did, he did.
I felt this way all week as we waited for the funeral, waited to hold each other’s hands and deal with this sudden thing whose permanence was beginning to settle on everything like dust.
When I walked into the church I made count of my surroundings—over 200 people in a room meant for about 150, almost everyone in light blue dress clothes or Green Bay Packer jerseys (his favorite team), flowers, photos. A scene you might expect for a well-loved man’s celebration of life ceremony.
But then his wife got up to speak, and then his daughter, two of the bravest women I know, and it was no longer a typical funeral. They transformed the room with their courage. These women, brimming with emotion, closest to the tragedy, got on stage and beamed life. They told their stories of the bravery and strength this man had shown through the hardest battle any of them had ever known. They shared how they wanted to carry on that same bravery and fortitude into every day life, every battle big or small.
I was humbled in my small bitterness. These women are anything but small, they are giants in their faith, warriors in their strength, and simultaneously the most gentle and beautiful creatures.
I don’t understand death or sickness or loss. Why we must endure it or why it occurs at all. But I know Roger was a brave man, a faith-filled man, a strong and humble man. A man who put others first, who was willing to reach across the globe to help a little girl left under a bridge as a newborn and make her feel like a princess, a man never too busy for a conversation or his kid’s water polo game.
The Anich family didn’t waste time in bitterness or pretending they weren’t in the battle they were in, they didn’t try to numb the pain, they didn’t run away. They stayed there, right in the thick of the battle loving each other with everything they had, praying unceasingly, hoping, believing, even laughing. And when it was over, it hurt, dreadfully. But it did not hurt because there was regret for having not said the words they had always meant to or because there were memories left unmade. It hurt because they had lived life so utterly to the brim and the joy and pain of it all overflowed until the very end.
Roger is worth celebrating, and so are you. So like the Anichs, even though life is dangerous and painful and unpredictable, can you…me…can we go out and be a little braver? Can we say the things that feel scary? Can we make memories that will last and be more aware of the people we love? Hope harder, love deeper, laugh longer.
This life is a short and sweet and wild thing and I for one want to live it a little bit more like the brave and wild Anich family in all of their fierce love and hope in the midst of uncertainty and even death.