On August 19, 2014, my mom, brother and I said goodbye to our Papa for the last time. We’ve had a tough time of it, enduring these long, empty days without his presence. Losing him extinguished a light. We’re not—I’m not—the same. I realize death is expected, for all of us. I understand we are not alone in suffering. I’m fully aware that these things—illness, loss and grief—are a part of life. But that doesn’t make the losing and crying and aching any less significant or profound.
Nine days after our goodbye, on a sunny August Thursday, my mom, brother and I gathered in a Las Vegas church. The same church Dad attended every Sunday, sitting on the right side, fifth row, aisle seat. I can still picture him standing there, arms raised, voice loud and strong. Boy, how he loved to sing.
But on August 28, his seat remained empty. The rest of the room did not, however. Friends and family gathered from all over the country to honor this man who loved Jesus and knew how to live. My brother and I led the service, something Dad asked us to do in his final weeks. As for my part? I told stories. And through the backdrop of storytelling, I highlighted the marks of a life well-lived.
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“Want your life to count? Want it to matter beyond the next project or to-do or accomplishment? Relationships. Faith. Service. Joy. These are the marks of a life well-lived. The chairs circled in your honor will never be empty when you live thus.”