My wife and I–and many others–lost a friend over the weekend in Charlene Hendrix. We attended her funeral service this morning after having had a very enjoyable visit with her less than two weeks ago. She knew that she was dying of cancer when we visited her in her home, and perhaps she knew that the time might have been this close, though we sure didn't. My comment to my wife when we left her house was, "I've never seen a dying person smile so much." I've heard it said that by age 40 or 50, we all have the faces we deserve, and Charlene's smile at age 81 even while being eaten up by cancer was like few that I've seen at any age, and it was fitting since it reflected a remarkable degree of "the life that truly is life" which was in her for decades.
The first time I remember meeting Charlene was when she took a class I was teaching on Wesleyan theology. She loved to learn, and never gave it up. It wasn't long after that class that I began writing on this blog, and Charlene was one of my earliest encouragers. I used to have something in the sidebar that could display the people who had commented most often, and her name was always on the list. We never forget the people who have really believed in us and given us encouragement when we needed it, and I will not forget hers.
Every one of us is currently in the process of becoming the kind of person we will be when we arrive at our deathbed. The decisions we make today inevitably push us toward becoming some kind of person then, so we are wise to pay attention to the course which that process and those decisions are taking. Charlene lived that process well, constantly filling her mind with things that nourished her soul–whether reading the Scriptures or taking photographs in nature, practicing habits that were conducive to God's life growing in her, and engaging in relationships with others that helped her to continue to grow and through which she could be a blessing.
James Bryan Smith has said, "the true sign of sanctity is not seriousness but joy," and I want to follow the kind of road Charlene followed for so long, one which will naturally leave me like her: someone marked by a joyful confidence in God.