Today is the birthday of So Young’s best friend, Kim. So Young had a lot of people she would call her best friend, but Kim was close to So Young for nearly 30 years. Kim delivered this eulogy with great poise and eloquence during So Young’s funeral on March 2, 2013. To me, it so fittingly represents So Young and her life that I don’t know if anymore words need to be said. Thanks, Kim, for loving my wife all those years, in good times and bad. I hope you know that you brought great joy to her life. This was clear even when So Young was diminished to the point that she could only listen but couldn’t talk. It makes me so sad to remember how sick she was, to the point she couldn’t talk to you. Still, you had this underlying connection so deep that for her, it didn’t really seem to matter. You were her best friend Kim. Your reunion on the other side will be so sweet, Kim. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to talk about, and you won’t have to get of the phone…
Every few years, So Young and I would stop and count how long we’ve known each other. In the end, the Lord gave us just over 28 years of friendship. Her first memory of me is my rainbow suspenders (which are due to come back in style in about five years!). My first memory of her is hearing her reply to a classmate who asked about her longer hair: tossing her hair and saying, “Yeah, I’m letting it grow.” That was sixth grade. Over these past 28 years, the Lord brought several precious friends into our lives, many of whom are in this room. And yet I realize that there is something unique about our relationship, and I think it goes beyond the fact that we’ve known each other for so long. Ours is a friendship that God Himself preserved through the infamous 8th grade silent treatment, protected from time and distance, and ultimately used to help shape the women we became.
First, the silly stuff! We used to talk on the phone ALL the time! We’d talk and talk for hours and hours. And we enjoyed a lot of great meals together. During the brief season when we were both working, before the kids came along, we would meet for lunch. So we talked all the time, and we ate, and sometimes we would do both at the same time. Like if she was eating lasagna…
“I’m eating lasagna.”
“Ooh, that sounds yummy!”
Can you smell it over the phone?”
“Here, want to taste some?”
“Oohh, that IS good!”
So we did this when we were girls, and when we grew up we did it every now and then for old times’ sake, but only when no one else was around.
We went shopping together, and on each trip we would eat, and we would buy matching things. The first things I remember were matching gray leggings from Paul Harris at Fair Oaks Mall, which I wore until they had holes and had to be thrown away. Once, we bought matching earrings… Our last outing was to Potomac Mills in a wheelchair (those ramps are steeper than they look!) where we bought matching lotion. We had picked out some things for our husbands, but we ended up putting those back and buying ourselves more stuff, and we bought matching glitter body spray. I asked her, “Where do you want to be sparkly?” She said, “My face.” So I sprayed her face.
And then we got Auntie Annie’s cinnamon sugar pretzels! This was our last indulgence together. We sat in Starbucks, eating Annie’s pretzels, and they were sooo good, and we got cinnamon sugar all over ourselves. Now she was having trouble using both hands by then, but we were both just covered. I was blessed with a chance to enjoy those same pretzels with the girls a couple of months ago.
Our friendship was also marked by unconditional love. Now, I know this is a eulogy, and I’m only supposed to be saying good things about So Young, but she wasn’t always all smiling and peaceful like in her picture! And Lord knows I’m not. But that’s where unconditional love comes in. So Young knew the best things about me and the worst things about me, and she loved me. She knew my secrets, and carried them with her to the grave. Unconditional love comes in when you’ve made a bad decision, or when you’ve loved Jesus for years but you’re having trouble following Him. Unconditional love is there to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And speaking of Him, So Young was the first person under 30 who I’d ever heard talk about Jesus. When we met, she was already a Christian, but I wasn’t. So she’d ask me, “What do you think about God? Where will you go when you die?” I became a Christian a few years later.
We would also bear one another’s burdens. When I consider the major milestones of my life, and the major milestones of So Young’s life, there is always a memory of celebrating together, or crying together. And remember: for So Young and I, “together” could happen even when we were miles apart. I remember happiness when she met her James, and it didn’t take long to discover that he would be the first — and ultimately the last love of her life. I remember falling to my knees and bawling when her mother died. There was the brief shared joy of being pregnant together, and So Young crying all the way home when I lost my baby. I remember rejoicing when God worked a miracle to give So Young her dream job (Stay-at-Home Mom!) and sharing the joys of watching her three girls and my two boys grow. I remember bawling over So Young’s diagnosis and the thought that someday, this day may come far sooner than any of us had ever imagined. At every milestone, every turning point, So Young and I laughed together or wept together.
Except for this one.
Now I’m down here drowning in tears, and she’s up there all happy with Jesus! But I must say: she expects us to be celebrating, too. When James shared her funeral wishes with me I was thinking, “What is this supposed to be, a party or something?!” I mean, I’ve spent the last few days wondering if I should be buying balloons and streamers!
And yet, my dear friend wasn’t crazy to suggest such a thing. In fact, it’s the stuff of the New Testament: to live is Christ and to die is gain…” “hard pressed between the two…” “Consider it all joy…” In fact, So Young’s faithful God challenges and even commands us to have such an attitude, because it is characteristic of a spiritual maturity that knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is real, His word is truth, His love is unfailing, His promises are guaranteed, and His heaven is filled with all sorts of phenomenal things that our eyes haven’t seen, our ears haven’t heard — things that haven’t even entered into the heart of man! And better yet, the key to gaining all these treasures is as simple as recognizing that you are a sinner and surrendering to the One who has the power to wash away that sin: Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
So Young possessed that key. She knew for certain that when our good God saw fit to call her home, He would welcome her into His heaven and sustain her James and Shannon and Lindsay and Audrey all the days of their life as well. And if we know him and trust Him this way, then surely we would find this day worth celebrating So Young’s restored vision, her freedom to walk and run… and not just her renewal from the sickness that overtook her body, but in fact her deliverance from the fleshly, sin-sick bodies that we all have.
And I too believe in Jesus. Completely. Despite my questions, my pains, my sadness and my fears. I know Him and I love Him. So I can celebrate today for what God has done for So Young Gage, my truest and dearest friend. But I also mourn. Not as those who have no hope, but mourning nonetheless for the two glasses of lemonade that we never got to share on my front porch, and for the loss of all the moments we thought we’d share before we knew how soon her time would run out.
In these seasons of mourning, I am thankful for the memories: 28 years of everything from insignificant chats to life-changing experiences with So Young. And I am thankful for the three treasures that she has left behind, and that I can see So Young’s creative brilliance in Shannon, her undying passions in Lindsay, and her sweet, carefree spunkiness in Audrey. And to God be the glory for the hope of salvation, which guarantees that if we confess our sin and trust Him as Savior, then we will see So Young again, and we’ll all be happy with Jesus forever and ever. Amen!