I normally write about our journey out of debt, but this past week, tragedy struck, and details of debt-reduction faded in significance with the stark reality of life and death.
DH = Dear Husband
Monday morning, about an hour into the work day, I checked my e-mails. “Sad” was the subject heading of a personal message, and I opened it up, curiosity piqued. “Sad” did not begin to describe it. I learned that Roy had died suddenly the day before. He had been cycling with his wife Sunday afternoon when he became the victim of a hit-and-run accident. The words swam before my eyes. Such tragedy. Roy left behind not only his wife, but three sons. Beyond shocking. No one was more thoroughly alive than Roy. I functioned in a fog for the rest of the day.
That evening, DH and I lingered together after supper. “I think that Roy had no regrets,” I said to him, our reflections scattered among long periods of silence. “He lived life so fully, with purpose and passion.” We had attended the same church as Roy and his family for many years before they moved to a small town. In recent years, we had only seen them intermittently, but it had always been effortless to pick up from where we’d left off when our paths crossed. “I have this sense of inadequacy,” DH said. “Roy wouldn’t want you to,” I responded. Yet it turned out to be a sentiment shared by many men.
The church he attended seats a congregation of three hundred, but late Thursday afternoon, a thousand people gathered to honour Roy’s life. DH and I sat outside along with hundreds of others, watching the service on a screen. His sons, two in their teens and one in his early twenties, spoke of a loving, fun, dedicated father as they read their letters of farewell to him. Arms extended in support of each other, the eldest reading what the youngest could not, they offered a powerful, moving testimony of filial love and respect. His closest friend spoke of a man who had no superficial relationships. “If you talked with Roy for five minutes, you thought of him as your best friend,” he said, the sheer number of people in attendance confirming his words. Projected on a screen, notes of condolence from his place of work, from pastors of different churches, and from friends in the community painted a uniform picture of a hard-working, fun-loving, authentic man – one who, in his character, struck those points of balance between humility and power, simplicity and wisdom, truth and love. With a baffling capacity to tune in and give of himself, he mentored individuals and led teams, inspiring people with his vision. Whether it was a church-building initiative, a determination to keep his son’s hockey team afloat, or a fund-raising project to send kids to camp, he led with a confidence that all things were possible.
Roy’s widow remained tirelessly gracious through hundreds of encounters with fellow mourners before and after the service. “He was very important to [DH] when he was out of work and making decisions about his future,” I said to her unsteadily. “He was so encouraging – at such a difficult time – in a way that mattered.” Printed on the program were words from 2Timothy 4:6-7 as translated in The Message: “You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause!” In his sermon, the pastor drew parallels between the Apostle Paul’s race to the finish and Roy’s. “Roy lived without regret,” he said, echoing the thoughts that had no doubt come to most of us in the days leading up to the funeral. I believe we all felt the need to step up – in some way to fill the void left by Roy. To ramp up and run the race harder, live more fully, with more purpose, unencumbered by regret.
As they cycled last Sunday afternoon, Roy and his wife passed by the house they had almost purchased when they had moved to the town. Riding ahead of him, she turned her head back and asked, “Do you think we should have chosen this house after all?” Minutes later, she would hear the collision and see her husband thrown into the air as the truck sped off. Minutes later, she would run to him and recognize immediately that he had gone. But at this moment in time, they were enjoying the sunshine of a beautiful day. “No, I love our home,” he answered, speaking what were to be his last words. “I have no regrets at all.”