Tomorrow we are boarding a plane that will take us to Arizona so we can say goodbye to a very dear friend. He lost his life in a motorcycle accident while on an epic trip to Utah with his dad. It is tragic, because he had so much life left to live. It is tragic because no one expected it. There was no time to prepare. No opportunity to slow time and savor that last moment with him – the one that would become the memory we’d hold onto for years to come.
Hal came into my husband’s life when Steve was just a scrawny seventh grader and he was lucky enough to have Hal as his substitute teacher. Pretty much instantly Hal became an icon for Steve, someone he knew was “cool” and also good. Good to his core. Hal was a safe person. He cared, and he committed, and he never ever forgot someone’s story.
During a time that was unstable and confusing, Hal was the rock that pointed true north for Steve. He served as a guide, not just someone who talked at him, but someone who was willing to slow down, take a step back, and walk with him. Over the years, they became less teacher/student and more mentor/mentee. Then friends. Then pastor to pastor. And somewhere in there they became family. Steve would say no one has been more influential in his life than Hal. And to that end, I must say…
Thank you. Thank you for living a life that demanded explanation. You were gifted with more insight and wisdom and intelligence than most of us could ever hope for, and yet you were one of the most humble, eager to learn people on the planet. Everything was a curious mystery to you, and your genuine interest in creation and God and people seemed to captivate your imagination and opened you up to possibilities most of us couldn’t even dream of. You lived a life so compelling, so authentic, so very much like Jesus – that those who knew you wanted to know more. You were a beautiful testament to the divine nature of God – curious, listening, learning, delighting, wondering .. the way you lived showed my husband that goodness and consistency existed in a world that said otherwise. You won him over, you cracked his code, broke down his walls, and made a way for the light to get in.
You were the first to speak the words over him that he was made for ministry. You said it so casually, so simply, so easily. No one would ever have guessed how very much your words would affect the coming history. Your words became influence because you not only lived a beautiful, compelling life – but you were consistent and brave. You showed up. You stayed. Year after year, trial after trial, Steve always knew he had you to call on. You flew across the country when his world fell apart. You were there. You have always been there for him.
Thank you for living so beautifully and also for paying attention. You noticed the stories God put before you. You asked questions. You became invested. You showed Steve what that kind of present life could look like. Because of you, he is someone who can show up, who can sit with and bear witness to the ups and downs of another’s life. You taught him that. You shaped him in so many ways.
Thank you for never leaving him. Up until the last text (and beyond that I believe) you remained loyal and present. You were there for him always, he felt your love always.
When I see Steve and how he loves, when I watch him question and push and let God be big enough to lean into – when I see how brave he is with his belief – I thank God for you and for all that you have given him. You have loved him up. Never has a second passed that he doubted your love and support of him. Always he knew he had you in his corner. What. A. Gift.
Of course there are a million stories I could share about your wild and well-lived life – I believe you have made God cheer as you’ve jumped both feet into the one precious and wild life you were given. But the ways you have shaped my husband and the ways I’ve seen that passed onto our community, our children, and our marriage will be an eternal source of gratitude for me. Thank you for living well, for showing up, for investing in a life-long relationship with Steve, and for all the ways you’ve shown him how to love well and be brave. My life – his life – the lives of our children and countless others – have all been forever touched because of you.
You are greatly missed and the ache and absence will be felt for many years to come, but the sorrow is our own to walk through. It is because you have been so very much like the love of God to us that we grieve the loss of you so deeply.
Gratitude is all I have to offer back, a small and incomparable whisper to God at how very good He is to have shared such a spark of light with us.
And so, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We miss you.