I wrote the bulk of this Monday evening, February 4th:
There are times in life that you receive news that makes your heart drop. Your whole body drop. Yesterday, I got some of that news. It doesn’t even seem fair to say that I got it. A LOT of people’s hearts dropped heavy in their chest yesterday.
A friend of ours, Randy, and his wife Suzy died suddenly yesterday in a car accident. Randy was a friend of Andy’s through ministry work and most recently has served as a marriage counselor for us. (Don’t act like you don’t know at least 10 people in counseling right now). He has been an integral person in our marriage in the past two years, helping us grow together as a family. It isn’t easy bringing two incredibly different people together but Randy has helped us see that our strengths and weaknesses can come together to make a great relationship.
Now, I struggle with sharing about death. I always feel like I don’t deserve a voice in the matter when I’m such an inconsequential person in their group of “people”. Randy and Suzy leave behind a family and loved ones that were much closer to them than Andy or I was. However, I can only see things through my own lens and I suppose every story is important if it wants to be shared.
I suppose I just want to say how thankful I am for Randy’s gift and his eagerness to share it. There was something about him, and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way, that made you feel at ease in his presence. Being in a counseling situation isn’t easy or comfortable. It can feel unnatural and frustrating. As someone who (at times) walks through life feeling very misunderstood and unknown, Randy made me feel known. I didn’t have to spend hours on end telling him about my past or what my likes and dislikes are…he just seemed to have an understanding of me within a few minutes. And not in the sense that I felt sized up and judged at all. Since yesterday, I’ve heard many people talk about Randy and Suzy’s incredible capacity for grace. They met people where they were, in pain and darkness and struggle, and showed them grace and love in that. I suppose that I felt that grace almost immediately in his presence. That feeling was an enormous relief.
I’ve seen counselors on and off since I was probably 17 or 18. In my late teens I was a train wreck. I’ve spent nearly 8 years living some of my actions down and being unfairly judged by people seeing me through that lens. As I think about it now, several of the people I’ve had the worst problems with have held past actions over my head and refused to see me as someone who has grown and changed. Andy and I spent many hours talking with Randy and never once did he imply there was something wrong with me or that I was abnormal in some way. As someone who, in the past, has spent hours scouring the web for what particular diagnosable “disorder” ails me, I am immensely grateful for him. To Randy, I was someone who had lived my life, made choices, been shaped by a million different things and was sitting in his office looking for a little wisdom. I’m not crazy. I’m not flawed. And I don’t need fixing.
One of my favorite things Randy helped me learn was that I’m responsible only for myself and I cannot let other people’s opinions, expectations, or actions weigh me down. If I do wrong, I take responsibility for it and do what I can to set things straight. If someone else has wronged me, that is on them. It is absolutely toxic to let someone else’s issues weigh you down. That is on them. They can have opinions about you or think you should be a certain way but it simply doesn’t matter. I can only be who God made me…strong and independent and a bit of a firecracker.
The last time I saw Randy was last Thursday when I went in alone because Andy had a conflicting doctor’s appointment. Up until then, we had always gone together because I’m not the only one in my relationship in need of guidance ;). Randy and I talked about being a working mom and how hard it is to try and juggle the myriad of tasks involved and still find time to be a normal human being. For the record, everyone tells you how tired and overwhelmed you’ll be as a parent but NOBODY tells you how hard it is to stop trying to do everything perfectly and take a stinking breath. It’s one of those things…you think you know, but you have no idea. Your job is never done. There are no days off. There aren’t even really any hours off. Instead of telling me to take some time to myself or to plan an afternoon with a friend, Randy gave me some incredible, simple, and probably obvious advice. He told me not to let the control I’m trying to have over everything steal the joy from my everyday life. I’ve been so busy caring for Landry, cleaning up after him, trying to keep a halfway sanitary home, trying to spend meaningful time with Andy, work (that’s the easiest part!), and so on, that I’ve forgotten I’m supposed to be enjoying the process. Imagine that.
I’m thankful for that simple advice. I’m thankful to have seen evidence of that truth in Randy’s own life. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen some incredible people pass away. It seems cruel that those people have been some of the brightest, kindest, warm souls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. However, there is something to be said about a legacy. Randy and Suzy definitely left their mark on our town in the best way possible. It’s hard to walk around in a dark cloud knowing that they blessed so many people and lived with honor, joy, and, most importantly grace.
Update Feb 8th, 2013: Randy and Suzy’s funeral was today. I wasn’t surprised to hear some of my sentiments from above echoed in Casey’s message. He, too, spoke about that feeling of being “understood and known” in Randy’s presence. His take on this was really neat. He said that the reason Randy and Suzy were so effective in their ministry is because they had experienced God in their own brokenness and shortcomings. That may seem overly simple and not very profound, but have you ever been in someone’s presence that is full of pride and grandiosity and felt judged and belittled? Randy embodied the opposite of that. He was confident and strong but humble and sincerely compassionate. This week, I’ve felt Randy’s influence in my life spurring me to be more positive, enjoy life as it is, cherish my family time, and to be above drama. I’m sure other people have carried his voice with them this week and I pray that we never stop learning from, and spreading, his legacy.