He died. And we all came to his party.

I never really knew a tragedy and a party could go together until now.

2 turn tables

I remember being a little girl and laying in bed at my friend Kaleigh’s house. Spending the night at a friends still had all the magic. Being dropped off. Eating food that isn’t a part of your normal menu. Playing with other people’s siblings. Getting ready for bed away from home always made me feel so grown up.

The nights I spent in that house are countless. It is funny what you remember about those times. Kaleigh’s mom always told me not to pop my knuckles or I would regret it when I was older. She was right. Once her dad let us stay up till about ten to finish Pippi Longstocking. And for a second grader that was basically winning the lottery.  As we got older, he watched us practicing the Macarena and told us we looked great. We didn’t.

This past week Kaleigh’s dad, Chris, passed away.

Last night was the visitation and I had to park at another building because the funeral home parking lot was maxed out. I waited quite some time to even get in the door. Finally it was my time to hug the family and say what little I could to communicate how sad I was and how sorry. Those are the times where words can’t really communicate what you have to say. And so you stand shoulder to shoulder in the crowd with your presence doing the talking.

Scanning the room it was filled – literally filled – with people that took me right back to my childhood. The families who all went to the church I grew up in. Teens I was in youth group with who had turned into full fledged adults with wedding rings and mortgages. So many people.

I was talking to a woman named Marsha who was a constant figure in my younger days. Homegroups, mission trips, her kids in the youth group with me. A lot of life connected us even though it had been years since I’ve seen her.

We talked about how Chris passed way too soon. We marveled at the crowd who showed up. And then she said it.

“He threw a party. And we all came.”

All the magic I had been feeling about the night, Marsha summed up in two sentences. Chris threw a party and we all came. Out of the woodworks crawled people from decades ago. Faces I haven’t seen since church picnics when I was a kid. People traveled from far and wide. Because this was Chris’s party and we wouldn’t miss celebrating him for the world.

Walking to my car, those words just ricocheted against all my thoughts.

I want to live a life that breeds these kinds of parties.  Throw the glitter and spread the dip. It is time for me to throw some serious soirees. Not just to celebrate life when it is over but in the thick of it. Where people line up just to get their feet in the door. ‘Cause they know that what is inside will be spectacular. It will be full of love, full of inspiration and full of life.

What I am about to say is the stuff of overdone graduation speeches. I know that. But I also know that it is true and that no matter how many times we have heard it before – we need to hear it again.

This is the time.

The time to feel all the feelings and love till our hearts bleed out onto the people around us. Soaking up every conversation knowing that it probably won’t be our last, but that doesn’t make it any less special. I want to hug my kids more because I can. And life is good. It may be hard and broken down at times. But it is good.

Those ideas that  are so risky they send comfort zones screaming? I want to do those. And I want to nail them. I know I probably won’t. In fact,  I will fail at many of them. But I will have done them and there will be scars that tell of my adventures into the daring world of possibilities. And I will throw my scars a party because being brave is worth celebrating.

However, some of the things I just might get right. And when I do? I’ll throw a party. Because I can. Because this is life – my one life – and I don’t want to put it off.

But mostly? Mostly I want to dare to open my heart up to people in the boldest of ways.

To love without any catches or qualifiers. The kind of love that is generous even when I feel like my own heart is surviving on bread crumbs. Believing that God will sustain me. The fierce kind of love that makes others uncomfortable with it’s intentional pursuit. I wanna be that girl.

And you?

You should fall in love more. Send out the resume for the dream job. Build a treehouse if for no other reason than it was a weekend of nice weather. Read books in homemade forts with friends because honestly, who wouldn’t love that? Pulling out the destiny in others even when your own seems overlooked. And love Jesus with everything you’ve got.

Because this is life. Welcome to the party.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “He died. And we all came to his party.

  1. inspiredtoactionkat

    Beautiful Liz, just beautiful.

  2. Becky Weatherly

    Liz, how well I remember the polite, sweet, funny little girl who used to come to our house. Thank you for a beautifully written tribute to my husband. I echo your sentiments. Chris was an inspiration to love boldly and without reserve. Thank you for honoring him.

    • Nancy Rothe

      Your blog makes me want to serve meals on the best china, sing even louder with the 3-year olds, and KEEP LOOKING for my “new dream job.” Your words danced across the page like lyrics to a cool song! Rock on!

  3. Molly gonzalez

    One of the last times I got to speak with Chris he was so intentional about encouraging my husband and I . He was such a sweet man with an open heart. To be seen, that’s what people want and he did that well.

  4. What a legacy: he lived life well and has inspired others to do so, also. A very well-written and touching tribute!

  5. Kati Walton Burkholder

    I wish I could have been there. You write beautifully.

  6. This is a fantastic piece, Liz! May we all live and love well.

  7. Merrikay Shade

    I loved the idea that “He threw a party and everyone came.” This was a party for his reunion with Jesus. I, too, saw the family Monday night and felt so inadequate not knowing what to say. I just knew I had to be there and see that family again because they were/are an inspiration for all of us. Loved your blog. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Lolly

    Your words inspire me. To stretch myself a little more…get out of my comfort zone…to not “settle”. Thank you for this post. Chris was an example of a life well-lived that touched countless people. I want people to say that about me someday, too.

  9. Vicki Lands

    Thank you for posting this. For those of us who would have dearly loved to have been there and couldnt it was a blessing to read such a lovingly written portrayal of not only the sweetest of men….but his loving farewell. What a wonderfully written piece.

  10. But mostly? Mostly I want to dare to open my heart up to people in the boldest of ways.

    Lord give me grace. I don’t want to be gossipy or nasty
    I refuse to be
    I intend to ooze out the Holy Ghost and all that He is.

    I can sometimes pretend it

    I always know when it isn’t coming from my heart but from my head

    I desperately want to ooze the Holy Ghost.

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