A Year Later
September 10 is a hard day. Today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of a dear friend, Lee. I have been struggling for words for a year now. How do you communicate what a person you have known your whole life means to you? How do you put words to the passing of someone who was one of the best people you have ever met? How do you talk about the person who has known your dad since they were 5 and have always been a part of your life? I don't know. I know these words won't do him justice, but I want to try today.
I knew Lee my entire life. He and my dad met when they were about 5 years old and were close friends from then on. They went through school together, did Young Life together, and so much more. From a young age, I remember Lee being around. He was my dad's friend from Colorado who would come and visit. I remember thinking of Colorado as this place full of adventure since it's where we vacationed. So, I always thought Lee was SO cool since he got to live there year around. He got to see snow! We just got a crummy ice storm once a winter. :) I remember as a kid going on vacation to Colorado and Lee and his three kids coming to visit us. I loved having them around. It's funny what you remember as a kid though. The memory that is the strongest from the visit is Lee's son Cole would eat dry ramen. I had never seen someone do that and was just amazed.
I also knew Lee as the "book guy." He worked in publishing and was an agent for authors. As a book lover, I always thought that was the coolest job. Over the years he would send us books to read from his authors, like "Same Kind Of Different As Me," "Heaven Is For Real," and my personal favorite, "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker. When Lee's wife Paula mailed me "7," I had no idea how much that book would change my life, but it has changed the way I think and live. And it wove Jen into my life in some small way. She also loved Lee, everyone did. And her words at his passing are what finally broke through the shock and allowed me to start grieving. When I met her at the If:Gathering in February, we talked about Lee and both started crying. That was the kind of man Lee was, even his authors knew he cared about them and was for them, to the point that they were still brought to tears months after he was gone from their lives.
I remember how Lee believed in me SO much, just like his mother Skeeter had. They both thought I could do anything and never missed an opportunity to tell me so. Skeeter always wanted to see me when I came home from college and wanted to know how I was doing. Lee was there when I graduated and had no ideas about what I wanted next and tried to get me a job in publishing. He gave rave references about me when I did interview anywhere. I had a boss once recount what my references had said (which was such a sweet thing) and his brought me to tears with his ability to see the best in me.
I have so many memories from the last 18 months of Lee's life. From driving with my parents to Colorado Springs to have dinner with Lee and Paula, and subsequently driving over Wolf Creek Pass at 1 a.m. after being awake for 20+ hours. To his eternal optimism and endless faith during the whole process. he wasn't someone who just said they had faith in God, but really lived it every day. Even through the worst of days, his faith shined brightly. I still have the rough draft of a manuscript he sent me right before he had to step back from work that he wanted me to read and give a quote about for the book. I sometimes wonder if the book will ever be published and if I will see it on tables at Barnes and Noble. To praying every Sunday (and often other days as well) for his healing. At my church we have a time where there is silence for us to offer up our own prays and petitions and for the entirety of Lee's illness, I prayed for him during that time. And now, a year later, I still pray for his family during that time.
And I remember a year ago, when after two years of bravely fighting brain cancer, Lee went home. Home to heaven where he was finally and fully healed. He went home to where Jesus "will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."
These words feel like just shadows of what I knew about Lee. Just hints of who he was. There is no way to encapsulate a person into a few hundred words. There are so many stories and feelings and memories that can never be told, you just had to experience them.
I miss you Lee, and I think I always will. I am forever grateful for the time the Lord shared you with us on earth and I can't wait to see you again one day.