This week, we mourn the loss of Ron Keefer and give him a send-off to his heavenly home. Unbeknownst to each other, Steve Balas and I simultaneously began drafting our own blogs the day the news of Ron’s passing was announced. The church office was somber and downcast, as were the many volunteers who came in and out that day. We were in shock: what would life be like without Ron in our church? Folks who came in that day recounted stories of how Ron always made us feel included, feel that he knew us well, feel that he cared for us, made us feel important, and we could feel the love of God emanate from him.
My special memory with Ron was about last year’s once-in-a-lifetime trip that my husband, Tom, and I made with our good friends, Jeff and Shannon, to the NCAA West Coast Semi-final and Final games in Las Vegas to cheer on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. There was a mile-long queue (well, it seemed that long!) to go through security before entering the arena, so we dutifully walked the gauntlet to find the end of the line. Lo and behold! Who was leaning against a tall garbage receptacle but Ron Keefer! His leg was killing him, so Carolyn had the task of standing in line with the rest of us, then Ron joined in before entering the arena. We swapped stories and recounted Zags plays and players as we waited to go inside. Ron and Tom had not met previously, but you’d never have known it by the flow of warm, animated conversation.
At church, Ron and Carolyn always take the extra moment to pause, look you in the eye, and chat with you, even if only to smile and say a few kind words of greeting while stuffing down a maple bar. Ron always made me feel special.
Why do some people who pass through your life make more of an impact than others?
Tom and I just returned today from our niece’s husband’s funeral. Ben was only 41 years old, struck in the prime of his life by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and FTD (frontal temporal dementia). A handsome and athletic man, he was always on the go, full of laughter, teasing his young children till they giggled in delight or joined his prankster ways. He was a loving father and husband. Ben was also a role model at Cross Fit, an avid competitor, and full of jokes along the way. His three kids even joined him in a few fun runs (once, ending up covered in bubbles from head to toe; another time, in mud from head to toe). He was also a role model of a boss, lightening up their difficult job with pranks, such as wearing 10-foot long plastic pipes on his arms to set up a plumbing display. He was great fun to be around.
What is it about some folks that make it more challenging for those of us left on earth to say goodbye? Surely, each of us have ready examples of those people from our own lives. As Christians, we are confident that Ron and Ben share a heavenly home now, but the loss of them from our daily lives has a greater impact. I think the answer might be that they were joy-givers in our lives. It’s a real gift to know someone who brings joy to you when you hear their voice, see their face, or think of them.
So, what do we do now about our feeling of loss? Probably a good answer is for us to emulate the joy-givers in our lives. Learn from their examples and share it with others like they did. As always, the Bible gives us good guidance.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 urges us to: encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
And then, Romans 12:10-14 tells us to: 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
It seems that the joy-givers in our lives followed those messages in the Bible and lived them out. Perhaps, then, emulating their behavior will help them live on through our actions and help ease the pain of their passing.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Your friend in Christ,