Live like you are dying…..cause you are! I don’t mean to sound so morbid, but if we all got up everyday and faced that reality I think we would live different lives. We might just think about eternal life and we certainly and hopefully would value each day more. Turning 51, watching my parents age and having friends to die has really made me examine and live differently. My hope is to always encourage so the following is a story of a friend who I think got it right.
As a freshman at Clemson I pledged Tri Delta sorority. One of the things I was required to do was get to know all the sisters (upper- classmen) in the sorority by interviewing them and then getting their signature. I can remember meeting Kathleen Crouch, a senior. It was a Friday morning. She was in her room packing to go see her boyfriend, Jon, who played football for the University of North Carolina. She was beautiful and sweet and I loved looking at all of her pictures and hearing about her life. She gave me tips about college and sorority life. That whole year she was such an encouragement to me and a role model. Little did I know that she and I later would marry men who grew up as best friends.
This past Friday I attended the funeral of Kathleen’s husband, Jon Richardson. Jon was one of Bill’s best friends growing up. They had shared a ton of life together. Jon was even in our wedding. The funeral was one of the most inspiring things I have ever attended. Please allow me to share. I truly wish anyone that I know, or don’t know for that matter, could have been at the funeral. I deeply regret that our children did not get to go! They would have received countless life lessons.
For those of you who don’t know Jon, he became very well known in the public eye. His family owns the NFL team, the Carolina Panthers. Jon’s brother, Mark, and a dear friend, Joan, who went to Clemson with me, introduced me to my husband Bill on a blind date my junior year in college. You can see there is a long-time friendship with this family. I actually was looking forward to the funeral, knowing that it was going to be very sad. But I also knew of the life that Jon had lived and what a celebration it would truly be of a man who lived life “LARGE” in God’s eyes and in mine.
Three different men stood to speak about Jon and testify to his generosity. The first to speak was a huge African American man named, Mike Bunkley. He cried off and on the whole time, stopping every now and then to gather himself. (I love seeing men cry. It sets a great example to all of us that it is okay to feel and to hurt). He told countless stories of Jon’s generosity. Two of his stories stood out to me. One being how Mike worked for the Panthers for years and would often find anonymous notes of encouragement on his desk. For years, those notes kept him going. He discovered much later that Jon had written them. He talked much about Jon’s humility and desire not to be in the lime light and how tirelessly Jon worked. He also told the story of Jon being confined to a wheel chair in the last few years. In the latter stages of cancer he was still reaching out to Mike and his family by helping him get some much needed repairs done on his house.
The next man who spoke, Davis Kuykendall, talked about the ability Jon had to be “all there” when he was with someone. He could make that person feel as if he was Jon’s best friend. Davis even went so far as to ask the people in the ceremony to stand if they felt like they were one of Jon’s best friends. The church was packed with hundreds of people and, I would say, about 90% of the congregation stood. The next thing that happened was a lot of applause. He also shared stories of Jon providing one-on-one mentoring and tutoring to underprivileged children in the Charlotte area. That story made me cry and smile at the same time. He talked about the value Jon put on people and relationships. He told many other stories about Jon that were so endearing and proof, yet once again, of the quote I love. He lived, “Your actions are so loud, I can’t hear what you are saying!”
The third man who spoke was Jon’s pastor, David Chadwick. He immediately stood and said that he had many things to say, but that he was going to honor Jon’s request to share the GOSPEL! He proceeded to do it so eloquently and unapologetically. You see, Jon became a Christian in his adult life after he was diagnosed with cancer. (He battled this disease for, I think, just short of 13 years.) One of the sweetest things he pointed out about Jon was that he had been humble and generous even before he became a Christian.
He did share one story of Jon’s generosity that is so worth sharing. David talked about how he and his wife had gone on a trip to Australia several years ago. He added that if people knew him, they would know he and his wife didn’t value things. If you went to his house, you would realize that by looking at it. He said that when they returned from the trip, he practically had a new house. He was so shocked and overwhelmed. As time passed, he realized Jon was one of the lead men in giving and organizing the renovation on his home. David pointed out that Jon did all this during the time that he was sick and battling cancer.
He concluded Jon’s life celebration by quoting John Wesley, “Give me a 100 men who love Christ and hate sin and I can change the world.” Jon, in humility, with generosity, and with an understanding of and love for who Christ was and what He had done for him, was a world changer! Jon lived and understood 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”