One of my favorite Hugh Grant movies is “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, from 1994. It’s the story of a group of friends, their lives revealed through the experiences captured at five important events: a wedding, a wedding, a wedding, a funeral…and a wedding.
This year I have experienced the exact opposite of that intriguing film. I’ve had four funerals, and a wedding. And in the same order, flipped: a funeral, a funeral, a funeral, a wedding…and today, another funeral.
This morning I said “See you later” to one of the sweetest women I have ever met. I have known her son, Wayne, most of my life. Greg and Wayne served in the military together. Remarkably, they stayed in touch after they were discharged even though they lived many miles apart. Throughout the years, Wayne and his sons have been frequent visitors to Joplin, and my family and I have spent many happy days in Texas.
I met Wayne’s mother, Loretta, at Wayne’s wedding, 34 years ago. She welcomed Greg and me, and our young children, as part of her own family. Her soft, southern draw and warm hospitality were reminiscent of a gentle woman of the Deep South. I was enchanted then. And have ever remained so, with Loretta Rue Alley Hopper.
She was born and raised near Desert Creek, in Texas. And although she traveled the United States with her young sons, as an army wife, and even spent time in Germany and France, Texas has always been home for her. She brought her sons into adulthood there. Welcomed a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Buried two husbands and one son in the Texas soil.
Loretta loved her Creator, and she exemplified what it looks like to love your neighbor as yourself. She loved without limits and cared for everyone, regardless of race, color, gender, age or financial standing. She shared with Wayne recently that the thing she most wanted others to remember about her was that she accepted people exactly as they were, allowing them the freedom and grace to be who they are. What a gift she offered. I am blessed to have known her.
Loretta and her siblings.
Driving home from Texas today, I reflected on the four funerals and the wedding, recognizing that they too have captured stories from the lives of these dear family members and family friend. Gathered together at each funeral, we remembered and shared about Mindy, Annie, Dale and Loretta, recounting the brief years of their lives, telling their tales. We, the family and friends of those who have stepped into eternity, are their legacies, and the continuation of their stories. We will not forget. And we are not without hope. We will see them again.
I am grateful in the midst of these gatherings, these “see you laters”, to have had Nate and Megan’s wedding. Theirs is the beginning of a new life, a new adventure together. They are creating their legacy, now, to hand down later to their children and grandchildren. I’m so glad for this celebration of love.
Photo by Sheena Photography
Four weddings and a funeral. Four funerals and a wedding. It’s all about life and sharing the journey, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the hellos and goodbyes. What an amazing group that I get to journey with. What a beloved cloud of witnesses we are surrounded by.