In the past couple of years, five important people have left Earth to be with my Father in heaven, but their legacies still live on in my heart. I wanted to honor them by sharing their stories.
So here they are, the five people that mean so much to me that have left me with valuable lessons, and have gone to eternal glory:
Eli went to sleep on earth and woke up in heaven on March 4, 2014. He left hundreds of friends and loved ones behind on earth. It has been three years since then and not a day goes by without my thinking of him. I wonder what he's up to in heaven. Playing guitar? Pranking girls? Hanging out with God? Discussing theology with the apostles? Whatever Eli's doing, it's far more wonderful than any of us can even imagine. I look forward to seeing him again one day.
Eli lived a life solely for Christ and in the wake of his death, several members of our school's football team devoted their lives to Jesus because of his example. Our university mourned as an entire student body after he died. His death hit me especially hard because just a year before, he and I had been on an urban ministry trip to inner-city Chicago and gotten to know each other quite well. In the subsequent year, we didn't hang out one-on-one a lot, but we still continued our friendship. I was proud to watch him play football, lead worship in chapel, and sing in the choir. Everyone at Trinity knew who Eli was, and Eli knew pretty much everyone. He was one of those people who was so clearly in love with God that it made you want to be in love with God, too.
Needless to say, Elis' passing changed my life and my perspective on it. I could go home to heaven any time, therefore I need to truly live for Christ in such a way that others are able to see God in what I do. I cannot keep him hidden; He has to shine from every single action I take.
2. Uncle Billy
On January 30, 2011, Billy Guthrie took his last breaths and entered into the loving embrace of his heavenly Father. A week and a half earlier, he'd suffered a heart attack that left him unconscious and subsequently entering a coma. If he woke up, he would not be the same man. My father and uncle had to make the heartbreaking decision to pull life support.
It was one of the hardest moments in our family and changed the dynamic forever. There is always an empty space at gatherings now, where he sat and told bad jokes. He would pretend to get gluten in my mother's gluten free food. He gave wise advice to the men of the family. Uncle Billy was also the caretaker of his father at the end of his father's life.
Billy taught me what growing up looked like. In his teenage years, he'd purportedly been quite the rebel— smoking, going around shirtless, and skipping school. He knew almost as much about cars as his dad did, and could get out of just about any auto-related jam. As a fiftyish-year-old man, he was calm, professional, and sold insurance. But he still held onto his humor and car knowledge. The lesson I learned was that growing up didn't mean becoming stodgy and boring, it meant you just did things a little differently.
3. Grandpa Guthrie
My grandfather was the father of the aforementioned Billy. Grandpa was beyond a shadow of a doubt the kindest man on this planet. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, according to my dad. Grandpa owned a Chevrolet dealership and served anyone, no matter what color or size or nationality they were. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars always helped the family get out of a jam, and spread across brands. If it was a car, Grandpa knew something about it.
During his younger years, he served in the Korean War after marrying the love of his life, my grandmother Louise. They had three boys; Billy, David, and Donald. The boys grew into wonderful men primarily because of Grandpa. He feared the Lord in all he did and taught them to love others and walk in humility. Grandpa died from health complications on October 13, 2012— two years after his son passed. Right now, he's probably trading car stories with other people in heaven, and waiting for Louise to join him— they were married for 60 years.
Grandpa taught me how to love and how to be kind. I hope to be married to someone for 60 years! What a blessing that would be–to share an entire life with someone. I also hope to emulate his benefit-of-the-doubt nature and to see people as humans no matter what.
4. Grandma McDonald
Grandma died in 2005, but she still has an impact on my life. When I was little, she sewed many of my clothes from dresses to pajamas. She told wonderful stories. The mother of seven children and grandmother to eight grandchildren, her gentle spirit still stands out in my memory. Her and my grandfather's love story is epic: they met in the early 1950s at work. The got married and had seven children. They loved to go hiking, canoeing, and camping, and would probably still do those things today if she had not passed. Grandma was quick with a needle and thread and could whip up clothing that looked as if it came straight from the store. She kept her four daughters in fashion without breaking the bank and passed her sewing and knitting skills onto my mother who is still attempting to pass them to me (it's the thought that counts).
Above all, Grandma loved every single one of her children and grandchildren. I hope to give my children and grandchildren even half the love she gave us. I also hope to find someone I love as much as she loved my grandfather, who she was married to for nearly fifty years. Grandpa is still alive and has not remarried nor dated since then. She also had a strong, steady faith in her Father, and was one of the first people in my life that I knew for sure went to heaven when she passed away. I was only 12 but knew I'd definitely see her again one day. Until that day comes, I want to continue her legacy of resourcefulness, love, and faith.
5. Ed Hague
Ed's story is a bit different from the other four. Mainly, his story is about death rather than life— although Ed made incredibly good use of his years on earth.
He was diagnosed with pretty much the worst possible, fatal case of prostate cancer you could get. The doctors gave him months. After years of ministry and business-owning, Ed was ready to go home— but not ready to give up. He went on an experimental trial that somehow extended his life by years. Ed used those years to love, blog, work and be a grandfather. He kept living, shocking many doctors, until the very end of his life. God used the medical trial to extend Ed's time on earth because He wasn't done using him yet.
Ed was a wonderful friend to my father and to our family. He became a part of our story in 1995 and continued to be a part of our family until 2015, when he passed.
Ed taught me the art of dying well. Now, I'm young and healthy and do not intend on or foresee myself dying any time soon if I've got anything to say about it. But because of Ed's example, I am not afraid of death nor the pain and suffering. In dying, Ed began to truly live. He had nothing to lose anymore, and thus spent the last three years of his life in an explosion of love. I hope I can live out my last days in an explosion of love like he did. I also learned that we're not done here until the Lord is absolutely ready to bring us home, and have taken that to heart.
These people have helped me to live boldly and fearlessly, and I hope their stories inspire you as well.