Sometimes we get to plan out what’s going to happen. Sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we know what’s coming. Sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we’re confident that what’s about to happen is going to be exciting and wonderful and grand.
And, sometimes, we know that what’s coming is going to be hard and gruesome and painful.
Yet, I don’t think we could ever know or anticipate how these experiences are going to change us.
In the past few years, I’ve had these amazing and life-giving opportunities to speak around the country. I’m blown away at how I’ve been invited to offer my voice, my story, my heart. Each time I’ve felt so honored, so humbled, so overwhelmed by the openness of others to listen to my voice. Each experience has proven to be powerful and transformative for me in profound and surprising ways. Beyond grateful.
And then, last summer, the day after Father’s Day, I was asked to “speak” at a different kind of event. It was something I had never been asked to do before, something that felt even more honoring, more humbling, and actually, more scary.
One of my best friends asked me to read a letter at her father’s funeral.
Let me back up a few years. Well, maybe like 20+ years…
Renee and I have been friends since high school, and we were roommates for about three years before I got married. We’ve had countless talks over shopping excursions and car rides and pasta and chips and salsa and morning cleaning and “smokey treats” on the deck and way too many late nights. Renee is someone who shares the value of being honest and open and reflective and imaginative and silly. She’s a learner. She’s a listener. She’s sensitive. She’s kind. So, as you probably can imagine, the spectrum of our conversations were wide. I remember so many of our crazy and stupid and lazy moments filled with jokes and laughter and music and SNL replays. But, mostly, what I remember are the moments that were filled with sharing what it was like to be a part of the “real” world…what it was like to be a daughter, a sister, an employee, a person with privilege, a person of color, what it was like to feel betrayed and forgotten and misused, dreaming of all the ways we wanted to find love and what that would look like and who that would be with and what kind of wives we would be, and what it would be like to become a mother and what we would name our kids and who they would look like, and all the ways we wanted to parent similarly to our own parents while giving ourselves permission to do things differently, what it felt like to have our heart sink and soar, long for and hope and trust, and how we were always going to fight for what’s good and true, in us, in others.
So many moments, so many hours, so many days…sharing what it was like to be human.
Our stories were being made, being shaped, being shared. And, they still are.
I loved that then. I love that now.
And so, when she asked me to read the letter she wrote for her father’s funeral service, how in the world could I say “No” to honoring a friend like that, honoring the man who she called, “Dad”?
So, yes…honoring, humbling, scary.
Honoring because these were the words from her heart, from her memory, scattered on paper, capturing who he was as a father, as a friend, as a man. These were the words that she wanted the people in his life to remember, about him, about his life, about the way he stepped into his world.
Humbling because I was asked to do this because my friend trusted my heart for her, and had entrusted her heart to me. Essentially, I was going to represent her story, her heart.
Scary because, well, let’s face it, there were going to be hundreds of people in that church whose hearts were going to be a bit more raw that evening, whose emotions were going to be a bit more surfaced sitting in those pews. And, because when you say, “Yes” to something like this, you risk having your own heart be publicly put on display…in a microphone. And, because the emotions captured in my friend’s letter were piercing the emotions in my own soul reminding me of the loss of my mom.
Yes…honoring, humbling, scary.
I practiced and read and practiced and cried and practiced and cried some more.
And then it was time.
The funeral was an evening funeral which was lovely and beautiful and meaningful. The mood was somber, yet celebratory. There were tears and laughter and music and prayers. The service was filled with friends telling stories, friends remembering their friend. It was a gift to be a part of this group of people remembering and celebrating and affirming this man’s life.
I’m so glad she asked. I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”
Because in that moment, I was able to experience one of the most profound invitations to “speak,” to use my words, to offer my voice.
Unforgettable. Powerful. Transformative.
Sometimes, we get these unexpected moments that help us put all other moments in perspective.
May you allow yourself to be surprised by the moments you get invited into today, this week, this Father’s Day…and may they forever change you.
Our kids…20+ years later.