Our friend Lorri passed away on Thanksgiving morning. I didn’t write about it; I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t make sense of it; it didn’t make any sense. One day, a healthy, 44-year-old woman is walking around, talking, laughing, loving. The next day, she isn’t. An aneurysm, a coma, a passing, and she’s gone and all the time you thought you’d have together, and all the plans you’d made are gone too. There was no story for me to tell. There was just sadness and the bare truth that life is too short and none of us are guaranteed even one moment more than the one we have right now. But at her memorial service on Friday, a story unfolded before me that I wanted to share, a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman, whom some of us were privileged to know.
The celebration of her life opened with the worship band from her home church playing a song called, “Strong Enough” by Matthew West. The lyrics go like this,
“You must think I’m strong/ To give me what I’m going through./ Well, forgive me if I’m wrong/ But this looks like more than I can do/ on my own./ I know I’m not strong enough/ To be everything that I’m supposed to be./ I give up. I’m not strong enough./ Hands of mercy won’t you cover me?/ Lord, right now I’m asking you to be/ Strong enough/ Strong enough for both of us.”
Having attended more Roman Catholic funerals than evangelical memorial services, I was shocked as the service began with this powerful anthem with its heavy drumbeat, but I was immediately taken by the message and the power of music as it pulsed through the room. The song choice clearly acknowledged that her “celebration of life” was inextricably linked to our pain and loss.
As I gazed up at the stage, I caught sight of the drummer. Unlike the rest of the band, dressed casually in dark denim and tee shirts, I saw a flash of white and the slash of a dark tie. It took my breath away. I watched him keep the beat, strong and steady. With his eyes closed, he poured his heart and soul into playing that song. He wasn’t singing, but I knew this was his song. It was his prayer and cry. Up on stage, in the recesses of light, Lorri’s husband Todd played this anthem, finding the strength to make it through the next hour and hopefully the next week, month and year to come.
When the song was over, Todd stood up, put his coat back on and walked off stage to sit once again at the side of his son and his mother-in-law. There were more songs and poems, slide shows and readings and then Todd got up to speak. I don’t know how he did it, but we were all blessed to see Lorri through his eyes. She had been in real estate, selling dirt lots and dreams to countless families in the Chino Hills area. Todd captured the essence of what she did for him with that very same metaphor. He said, “She found me when I was a dirt lot and left me a million dollar man.” She was his coach, manager and cheerleader, but most importantly, she was his biggest fan. That was Lorri’s gift; she made everyone feel as if she were their biggest fan.
My children were no exception. Though the kids were emotionally and physically exhausted as we drove home that night, they would not have missed her service for anything. They wanted to go to show their love and respect for “Miss Lorri” and her family. Tim and I weren’t positive we should bring them, but we were so glad we did. Even in her absence, Lorri taught my children a lesson about the impact that even one life of honesty, integrity, compassion, generosity and faith can have on an individual, a family and a community around the world.
Lorri’s too-short life also taught me a lesson. While it isn’t practical to “live every day as if it were your last,” it is critical to live as if each one matters. As I go through my days, I find myself checking in:
Am I loving with my whole heart? Am I wasting time on things that don’t matter? Is my worry overwhelming my joy? If this day were my last, am I living it well enough?
That last question, more than any other, has become a transformative one for me. I don’t want to close my eyes on a day I am not proud of. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to be good enough.
So thank you Lorri Tippet for the way you lived your life, the way you loved others and for all the lessons you taught us, in this life and beyond.
P.S. “Strong Enough” was purchased on Itunes on our drive home. If you don’t know it, take a moment and check it out.