November 18th, 2014. Our little town lost two people in a heinous act of domestic violence. It rocked our little town to the core. There are still so many questions, so much pain, and no small amount of anger that this happened. A mother of four is gone. A husband is gone. The grief remains.
Saturday, December 13, 2014, I attended the memorial service for Tiffany Ferguson and her dad, Jim Webber. The church was packed with people who came out to pay their respects to those left behind, to offer support to each other, and to say goodbye. The community came together to show that it was united in grief and loss, but also in a commitment to stand with Tiffany’s mother and children.
I graduated with Tiffany, and most recently, I worked with her at the hospital. We were both 4-H parents that worked with our kids at the county fair. I wish I could say I knew her better as a person, but what I did know was good. I did not know her dad at all, but from what I heard, he sounded like a good man.
This post is not like others I have written. I think in some ways I just need to sort through my thoughts on a couple of things, and lately, this has been a good way for me to do that. I just want to share some of my thoughts as I sat there in the congregation and listened and observed.
1. I saw the importance of relationships. Tiffany was one person, but wore many “hats”. She was a mom, daughter, runner, friend, co-worker, student, involved parent, committee member, and many more things. Through those many hats she wore, she was known throughout the community. I saw many people there who had lost someone they cared about. The reasons they cared were different for everyone, but at the end of the day, Tiffany had many friends, acquaintances, and supporters, who now feel a hole that she filled.
Looking around the auditorium, I saw people clinging to each other as they wept, silent nods of the head, hugs, offers of tissues, and some laughter as well. People were relying on their remaining relationships to help them cope or try and make sense of things, or maybe just to get through the service. Whatever the reason, I saw acted out in front of me that in times of need, pain, grief and trouble, we naturally reach out to the relationships we have for strength, courage, and support. It was good to see that.
2. I saw the importance of hope. At one point, the pastor brought Tiffany’s son up on the platform to sit with him. He was excited to have the chance to be on the platform and look out at the people. Earlier in the service, the pastor had talked about his own loss of his father as a young boy, and how the people around him rallied around that young boy and poured their lives into him. They were not trying to replace what he had lost, but they were there to walk beside him, to give him love, to encourage him to keep moving forward.
Watching the pastor sit there on the platform with his arm around the little boy while we all listened to a song, my eyes filled with tears. In the middle of all of this loss, that act was, in my eyes, a glimmer of hope. Hope for that young man and his siblings. Hope that our community can and will rally behind them. Hope that people can make a difference.
After leaving the service, I thought more about the need for relationships and hope. What makes them so powerful? What is it about them that gives us power to keep going?
We need relationships. One of the most difficult things for most people to deal with is being alone. Sure, for a little while, it is nice to have the house to yourself, to be able to do what you want, when you want, and how you want, but what about when you are hurt? Who is there to help you? We need people in our lives that can identify with our pain, with our weaknesses. We need people to laugh with us, cry with us, or just sit quietly with us. Just having someone there with you can make life better.
We need hope. Read the stories of men who were POW’s during WWII or Vietnam. Time and again, I have read their accounts of watching their fellow prisoners die after something happened that took their hope away. When we have a reason to keep going, we can keep going. When hope is gone, the burden is heavier, the clouds are darker, and the pain takes us over. We need something to cling to as a goal, a vision of the other side, a belief that we will endure and not only survive, but have a victory.
Of all the relationships I have between family, extended family, friends, co-workers, church-members, and so many more, there is one relationship I value above all others because it makes all the others better. My relationship with Christ makes the marriage I have sweeter because I can model Christ’s love for the church. It makes my friendships stronger as I see how He interacted with His friends, the disciples, in times of peace, accountability, and loss. It is my relationship with Christ that makes me a better servant to those around me because I saw His servant heart. I’m not Christ. I’m not perfect, but I am learning, watching, Relentlessly growing in my relationship with Him and with others.
That relationship has brought to my life a hope that burns brighter than my hope in any other thing. My relationship with Christ has brought me security for eternity. It is foundational in how I look at things. No matter how bad things are, and at times they are quite bad, I KNOW my future is secure. This life is short. Sometimes, painfully short, but eternity is a long time, and I know I can endure things here because of the peace that salvation has brought to my heart. I need not fear loss, pain, hardship, or anything else. My God is bigger than them all.
This is not to say that I don’t hurt. I do.
This is not to say that I don’t get scared. I do.
This is not to say that I have it all figured out. I don’t
This simply means that today, in the middle of a memorial service for a friend and co-worker, at a time of loss for her family and closest friends that I do not pretend to know, God reminded me of what I have in Him. A friend that will never leave me hanging, and a future that cannot be taken from me.
I hope that my words do not offend anyone who has been rocked by this loss. That is never my intent. I hope that if you are reading this, and it stirs a yearning for a relationship that brings you that kind of hope, that you will reach out to me or someone else that can help you have it. I would be honored to speak with you.