A little more than a week ago, I lost a best friend.
When I spoke at her memorial service, I quoted Proverbs 18:24: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” But I told the crowd that had gathered in the service what the verse meant to me: “There is a friend who feels as close as a sister.”
Sheila Cook was that kind of friend to me.
When she passed away, I lost a sister, but only for a time.
Genuine friendship is a great gift
Sheila was married to the long-time, now retired, president of Dallas Baptist University. I am married to a man who is also well-known in many circles. People often saw Sheila and me as the “wives of” more than they saw us as the people we are individually.
And that was fine! We had and have every reason to be proud of our last names and the men who gave them to us. But Sheila and I knew each other as the people God made us to be. We had a genuine friendship that was born from two people who understood our positions and then gave one another permission to be ourselves too. That made her friendship a great privilege to me.
I loved Sheila not just for her gracious ability to treat others well and truly care about them. I loved Sheila for her unique laughter, for her unlikely sense of humor, and for her willingness to let me know her as a person, not just a persona. We shared that kind of friendship, and we both felt blessed by God for his kind gift.
Too soon, Lord
Sheila went into the hospital to have a surgery that she hoped would give her more energy and more air in her lungs. I didn’t want her to have it and told her that her friends would be glad to adjust our lives to whatever she was able to do. When she was still in surgery, long after she was supposed to be, I began praying.
There were complications, and a LOT of God’s people began praying for her and her family. But she didn’t get better and passed away.
I had been praying, knowing what God could do, but I also asked the Spirit to guide my prayers to want whatever God planned to do. When I heard she was gone, I was still unprepared for the feelings that followed.
Grief is a strange weight that we carry through the day as we walk past people who are just fine. Grief is an ache we keep to ourselves among people who have no reason to understand. Grief can really only be shared with people who are feeling it as well.
God is enough
I was driving around town doing my errands. It’s kind of surreal to do the normal things of life when nothing feels normal in our hearts. That day a song came on the radio that I hope you will take time to listen to.
When I heard the song, I thought of Sheila. In fact, if Sheila could have sent me a message, it would have been this song. Sheila’s great gift from God was her ability to enjoy people and care about their needs. She loved to encourage others. She loved to bring gifts to people she cared about, hoping to help them throughout a happy, important, or tough moment in life. She was a caregiver, and she was a delight to the people who were blessed to call her a friend.
The song I heard that day was “That’s Enough” by Brandon Heath. As I sat and listened to the words, I knew that I would give it to all of you. The chorus of the song is: “I am here. I am loved. God is good, and that’s enough.”
The song is about living with a sensitivity toward the people who surround us every day. The song is about being the person God can use to be his voice of hope or his arms of goodness and love. People need the Lord and deserve to know they are loved. That’s who Sheila was in my life.
I am forever blessed by her friendship. Now, I am forever called to honor her memory by treating others with the compassion and love that I have been privileged to receive.
I hope you will take the time to watch the video of “That’s Enough” all the way to the end. There is a line printed at the end of the song that would be the words Sheila would tell us: “Be kind. For some you meet are fighting an unseen battle.”
The apostle Peter wrote to his church, and to us, saying, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Every person you meet today has sinned and will sin again. None of us are perfect until we are perfected in heaven. But we can offer the love of God to others and be good friends to those God brings into our lives for that purpose.
We don’t love others because they are perfect, we love others because they are not. Genuine love sees the person as they are and loves them anyway. That is a friend who will stick closer than a brother, a friend who will be a sister.
God is good, and that’s enough
I may never have the opportunity to know you this side of heaven. But, if you and I are saved by Christ, we are part of an amazing family of brothers and sisters. We are here for now. And we are loved. God is always good. And God is always enough.
I will miss Sheila more than I know. At the same time, I smile often as I hear her voice in my heart. The day I heard the song, I had to dry my eyes and wipe away the mascara that I had cried off. I wondered how I would get through my tribute at her memorial service.
I heard Sheila say to my heart, “Waterproof mascara. You don’t want to look like a raccoon up there!” Then I heard her unique laughter and found myself laughing and crying all at the same time. That was exactly what Sheila would have said! Sheila and I could say anything to one another because we knew it was said in love.
Above all . . .
Above all, let’s live like Peter taught us and Brandon Heath’s song encourages. Let’s walk through this world aware that some are fighting an unseen battle and give God permission to enlist us to help.
Let’s live like Sheila did, with a genuine, heartfelt appreciation for others just as they are.
Whatever else you might need to hear today, hear this: God knows right where you are and you are loved. God is good, and that’s always enough.
We have the promise of an eternity to be friends, to be family. We can share that gift with as many as we can, right now.