My dear friend, Esther Kim, passed away 9 days ago, on the night of December 22.  Esther was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer a mere 20 days before.  The cancer was stealthy and fierce.We held Esther’s funeral yesterday at Newsong, our church, and the same church where we held my son’s memorial.  It has been a really terrible year.  Or more specifically, it has been a really terrible last four and a half months.

Esther’s husband, David, delivered a beautiful eulogy.  “Esther was love and light,” David said. She was a joyful soul who loved being with family and friends.  She opened her home and her heart to her church community.  She spent her energy taking care of others.  But most of all, Esther loved their daughter, 13 year-old Emily.  Emily was her delight.

Then Emily got up and spoke. We all loved hearing from Emily.  She spoke of the lessons she learned from her mom — lessons about makeup and shopping and studying and life — and about all the fun they had together.  Esther’s light clearly shone through Emily as this lovely girl shared with us her memories of her mom.  “I will miss you, Mom, for you won’t be there to help me pick out my prom dress.  And I will miss you, Mom, because you will never get to hold my babies.”

Friend after friend got up and praised Esther.  I learned so much about my beautiful friend!  Their memories and their stories enlarged, and then broke, my heart.  This world is hard!  And this world is unfair!  We lose the ones we love too soon.  The grief, frankly, is overwhelming.  It’s devastating.  I watched the slideshow celebrating Esther’s life, and I saw a contemporary.  I had the same outfits from the 70s, the same permed hair from the 80s, the same big milestones — graduations, engagements, weddings, births.  But then, cancer.  And for me, losing my son.

Daniel and I met David and Esther when we were invited to be part of their Small Group at Newsong. Our Small Group friends have been there for us consistently since Dragon died.  We will do our best to be there for David and Emily as they navigate life without Esther. In my last conversation with Esther, my last real one before the chemo weakened her body and the sedatives disoriented her mind, she and I talked about how it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, that counts.  We spoke of the importance of family and of friends, and how sometimes your friends start becoming your family.  We shared our worries for our kids, and we asked each other for help.  I learned much from Esther about how to live with a giving heart and about how to love.  I will miss dearly my good friend.  I’ll end with one of Esther’s favorite bible verses, Joshua 1:9, which I will hard try to remember in the days to come: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Amen.