In a church with an average age of 33, it’s rare to attend a memorial service for someone who was her early 30s. Yet I recently found myself in the sanctuary of 150 W83rd – I’m yet to attend a wedding there – remembering Alicia, along with her friends and family.
Less than a year ago, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in her brain. Despite surgery and aggressive treatment, it moved into her spine and then took her life. I was affected by Alicia’s passing in ways that were unexpected. I followed her disease progression on the Caring Bridge website and had prayed with and for friends that were walking beside her in the valley of the shadow of death. They were bewildered, already grieving the beautiful, vibrant, marathon-running, Deaconate-serving, orphan-loving person Alicia once was. I found myself tearing up during the service even though it was a celebration of stories of a full (though abbreviated) life well lived.
I wasn’t a close friend of Alicia’s but 4 years ago I interviewed her for a video we were making on ‘Sex, Singleness, and Marriage.’ During that hour, she shared personal stories of her dating woes in New York. Like most young, attractive women, she dreamed of meeting ‘the one’, marrying him and having children. When we spoke, it hadn’t happened for her yet, but she remained hopeful. At the same time, she was faithful to God’s call on her life and sought to marry a man who loved Jesus as she did. Because she was so transparent about her dreams and her struggles – I recently watched the interview all over again – I felt an unusual closeness to her.
Even now when I look at the photo on the program for her memorial service, its hard to believe Alicia’s not here. But the separation is only temporary. As DP reminded us, we can still experience Alicia with us because of her friendship with Jesus. It’s a friendship that will take us where we don’t expect to go: Alicia’s life and death illustrate that. It’s a friendship that endures through our past (failures and blunders), our present (grief at her passing), and our future (he’ll never leave nor forsake us). And it’s a friendship that will endure forever.
Alicia’s relationship with Christ changed her life. To continue experiencing our friendship with her, since she’s with him now, that friendship can continue as we spend time with him. A comforting prospect in the face of an inexplicable loss.