My family and I made the trip from Mississippi to Texas to attend our friend Julie's funeral. After the seven-hour trip (which included a speeding ticket in Louisiana--Grrrrrr), we quickly checked into our hotel and then made our way to the visitation. The visitation lasted three hours, with a steadily moving line that poured out the back door the entire time. It was a closed casket, but they did have several big, beautiful pictures of Julie and her family.
Julie's husband Mark was at the front of the room, greeting everyone with big hugs. We hadn't seen him in several years, but the moment we saw him, it was as though no time had passed. We were able to see so many wonderful friends from our years in Texas. A few of the friends we saw are ones who actually moved from Texas to Maryland with us to start a church, so time with them was especially sweet.
The next morning there was a graveside service for Julie. It was pouring down rain and absolutely freezing, but it was a beautiful time. So many people gathered there. The message was completely glorifying to God, and we all sang "How Great Is Our God" (which is what Callie played for me on her KAZOO to help cheer me up last Friday after we got the news of Julie's passing) and Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone." These are two of my very favorite songs. I couldn't really sing them, though, because music is what really brings my emotions to the surface. So I mostly just cried but praised God just the same.
That afternoon a few of us got to go to Mark's house and just sit around and talk and laugh with him. It was very special. We certainly didn't expect to get to have this intimate time with him, so we count this a huge blessing. I got to wander around Mark and Julie's house and look at pictures of their family and just imagine their lives there. They have an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. Addi was just six months old when Julie was first diagnosed with cancer. My heart just aches and aches for them.
That evening there was a huge celebration service, and there were no less than a thousand people there. Amazing! It was such a beautiful time of worship--nothing less than that. Of course, more tears poured out of me during the music, but both the tears and the singing were healing and good for my soul. There were also some great stories of Julie shared, and again, the message was beautiful and glorifying to God.
Everyone, including Mark, wore jeans and bright colors to all of the events--including the graveside! It was so great and just the way Julie would have wanted it. We could rejoice, because we knew that she was with her Savior and was now made whole. I am so glad that we were able to be a part of these days, because I was truly blessed and challenged by the crystal clear message that Julie presented even through her death. My hope and prayer is that the message at my funeral will be equally clear and that people will have seen Christ in and through me.
I hate to be a copycat, but I would love for my funeral to be like Julie Mangrem's! Yes, remember me, but mostly rejoice that I am with my God. Praise Him! And by all means, wear your blue jeans to my funeral, sing as loudly as you can, and eat some chocolate in memory of me.
I am so glad to have known you, Julie Mangrem. Your life is a testimony to the greatness of our God.