Remembering Past Mentors

Two beloved congregation members passed this weekend, and their funerals had good attendance. Both of these individuals were loved, highly regarded, and emotionally taxing. They both lived into their nineties and mentored more people than I can count. Franklin and Lucille were two people that I wish the world could clone. They were kind, caring, and put God and family before everything else. They helped anyone that they could along the way and were highly intelligent. They leave behind not only their memories but a message of hope, love, grace, and faith for those who knew them well to spread to others.

It seems like the last couple of years, I’ve witnessed more funerals and deaths than at any other point in my life. Yesterday, one of the women I’ve worked with for the past couple of years died after a misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The New Year starts with a sad theme, but I have to find joy in their lives. Their footprints are leaving an incredible legacy behind. All three of these folks made the lives of others better by their actions. While it’s always hard to say goodbye, I think somewhere down the line; we’ll meet again.

It’s easy to remember the good and bad things that people did in their lives. It depends on the person and how they learned from that individual. For instance, Franklin was a dairy farmer. But, the cool thing about him was that he loved plants and flowers. He could tell you the names of almost any plant that he encountered. His love for the outdoors and nature was infectious. His mindset was sharp until the day he died. He could tell stories that kept people engrossed in the conversation. His eyes lit up and danced with happiness only rivaled by those who genuinely love what they do in life. He knew his time was getting shorter, and he made the most of his life by ensuring that others learned various skills from him. His children and grandchildren will miss him, but they all learned priceless lessons to pass down to future generations. He had a pleasant and kind face, and I never felt threatened by him. I’m sure he could be pretty formidable when a situation called for that stance, but he was a kind, skilled, and treasured man to most people. He and my grandmother enjoyed talking about flowers. Until her death, my grandmother worked with flowers for most of her life. The knowledge that I learned from both of these individuals won’t go in vain. While I do not have the green thumb that either of them had, I now enjoy plants and nature more than ever.

Lucille was a vision of peace. I’m sure she had a fiery temper, and I wouldn’t want to be on the backend of that temper. Most short people can have explosive characters and mindsets. But Lucille was genuine. She always made people feel at home. She and her husband Robert had a life of over seventy incredible years of marriage. They had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to celebrate their lives. They endured heartache as their son succumbed to a heart attack. He left behind a family as well. His immediate family has grown since his death with the birth of a grandson. It never ceases to amaze me at the cycles of life. When one life ends, others begin. Lucille was kin to many people in the Gibsonville area. Most of our congregation is all related to one another in various ways. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy not having relatives in that area. It gives me a certain freedom to not apologize for offending anyone at family reunions. I don’t attend family reunions most of the time, so if I don’t go, I can’t offend.

I received word that another person passed away on Sunday as I typed this. Her name was Kathy. I don’t know her as well. I know that she worked for a concrete company for years, and her health declined after they forced her to retire. All three of these folks were highly ingrained in faith. They believed that they would meet Jesus and hopefully be able to enter the pearly gates of heaven with all their heart. Kathy was the point person I went to for social media communication. She was the equivalent of an administrative assistant for the church. Her heart was expansive. She loved her church community and her family and extended loved ones with all her heart. I think the common denominator for all these people who passed is that they had incredible hearts and generous souls.

As I enter this week, the thing that stands out the most is remembering the lessons that these individuals taught me. Treating others with respect and kindness isn’t a chore. Giving your heart out to those who may not know they need it can be cathartic. It isn’t about what you receive from that person, but you open doors that you never imagined by allowing yourself to love and learn from others. Life is fragile but exciting, joyous, sorrowful, and mesmerizing. If you open your heart to someone who doesn’t reciprocate, don’t worry. It’s not a reflection on you but rather an image of them. If you believe that a person is worth helping along the way, help them. But if they don’t want your help, there are many others who you can assist. If my mentors taught me anything over the last few years, it’s that it’s okay to grieve and take the lessons we learn along the way. Celebrate their contributions and keep growing. One day it will be our turn to pass, and the best thing we can do is leave behind an imprint that we made a difference to others. Have a great day, everyone.

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