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The Importance of Relationships

planeLosing a friend this week reminded me again of the importance of relationships and nurturing the roots of our life. My friend, August was 84 and died of cancer he didn’t know he had. His suffering at the end was quick, going into the hospital on Tuesday, losing consciousness on Wednesday, and passing into eternity on Saturday morning. I knew he and his wife for fourteen years. They were married ten years ago, she lost her first husband in 1988 and he lost his wife not many years after that.

August was a sailor, a Navy Warrant Officer, proud of the uniform, proud of his country, proud to have served his nation. We shared war stories often. He honored those in uniform whenever given the chance. Every Memorial Day, every Flag Day, every 4th of July, every Veterans’ Day, whenever an opportunity came for special recognition of veterans in church or public events, he humbly stood with the crowd of veterans, but looked around and applauded the young men and women who stood with him, the volunteers who are protecting our nation today.

August was a father. He made mistakes along the way as we all do. In getting to know August over the last few years, especially as his prayer partner the last three years, he reflected on “redo” he’d like to have with his children. But growing up in an abusive home, never seeing how love and discipline should be expressed, he did what he thought was right, even knowing there was a gnawing feeling that it wasn’t. Regrets and long past memories are difficult to overcome without nurturing the spiritual root. Over the last three years in focused discipling, August did that. He found peace with himself, his God, and longed to share the same peace and joy with his children.

August was a husband. He loved his wife. At our weekly breakfasts together he spoke most often about her. He shared about their trips together and the joy they found in those. He share about her painting and the drive she has. He share about her faith and the way she manages to weather every storm that come into life. He shared so many stories and events that showed how much he cared for her. Sometimes he talked about the work he did for her in the flower beds, in the house, in the art gallery, in other places. He found it hard to keep up with her sometimes, but he worked hard to do it because he wanted to be where she was and aid her in whatever way he could.

August was a friend. He took time for people. He didn’t get in a hurry. He talked to anyone who wanted to talk. He would share time with the waitresses at the restaurant where we ate each Wednesday. He stopped to talk at the register. He talked in the grocery store or in the lobby at the church. Wherever he went, he was ready to spend time with people. He understood that people need relationships and was just ready to be there to lend whatever hand he could, even at 84.

We will miss August, but because he nurture the five roots of his life – physical, family, spiritual, emotional, social – in the end, I think he felt fulfilled. I think his last years were filled with joy and a peace that comes from knowing who you are and living life to the best you can each and every day. He did that. He couldn’t do much about the past except ask forgiveness and forgive himself. He had taken those steps and found peace. Now, in his faith belief and mine, he is at rest with his Lord.

Enjoy your celebration, my friend!

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