What a difference one life can make.
Last week, I attended a memorial service for a dear woman of God named Vivian Coley.
Vivian was 101 when she died, leaving behind family, friends and precious memories. Vivian and her daughter, Jody, have been part of my life for a long time.
I got to know them after they began attending Full Life Church years ago. At the time, I was a single mom and we’d go out to Arby’s to eat after church. I’d be nervous, trying to make sure my little boy, Michael, behaved. They’d just smile and laugh.
Back then, Arby’s had a payphone near the restrooms. Michael, who was probably only 2 or 3 years old, picked up the phone one day and pretended to call the pastor.
They loved that and remembered it for years.
When Vivian was in the hospital a couple years ago, my daughter-in-law, Rachel, and grandson, Matthew, brought me along to see her.
Matthew kept giving Vivian some M&M candies. He wanted to make sure she had plenty. She remembered that for a long time, too.
Lots of people loved Vivian, something evident at her funeral, which just happened to be attended by 101 people. Different folks shared their memories of Vivian and it was obvious that she’d touched many lives.
She was good woman who loved God and lived a full life.
Vivian was born in 1915.
To picture those times, please consider this: Baseball great Babe Ruth hit the first home run of his career that year and World War I was raging in Europe.
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the United States. (Our country’s current leader, Donald Trump, is the 45th president.)
Please also note this: Only five years after Vivian was born, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified giving women the right to vote.
Obviously, a lot has happened in a century, plus one year.
I also found it interesting that Vivian’s grandfather, Dudley Miller, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Both of his legs had to be amputated due to frostbite during that war. Vivian never saw him before he’d lost those limbs.
The third youngest of 10 children, Vivian grew up on a farm and lived during the financially miserable times of the Great Depression. She attended a country grade school, then started at Pilger High School.
She was a high school sophomore when the school caught on fire and all the students were evacuated through a fire chute.
The building burned down and Vivian lost the only new coat she’d ever had.
Another school building was constructed. That building was demolished by a double tornado in 2014.
Vivian and her husband, Leonard, who married in 1934, had two children, Jody and Cheryl.
During World War II, the family lived in North Platte. There, Vivian was active with many other women in what was known as the North Platte Canteen. When troops stopped at North Platte via train for a short time, the women fed them sandwiches, fruit and cake and gave them magazines.
To military personnel headed to war, it was a little bit of home.
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Years later, Vivian worked at the J.M. McDonald’s department store in Fremont. For the last 10 years of her career, she worked at a subsidiary of Mutual of Omaha, called Omaha Indemnity.
At Full Life, Vivian was active in the WMs (Women’s Ministries). As part of that group, she helped prepare meals at the Care Corps Family Services homeless shelter for a time.
People at our church and lots of other friends loved Vivian — and still love Jody — for their amiable attitudes and genuine interest in others. And Jody’s quick wit keeps us all laughing.
Everybody needs friends, people who care about them, love them enough to tell them the truth in a kind way, and stick by them in tough times. Vivian and Jody have been that to me.
The Bible talks quite a bit about friendship.
In the Old Testament, we find the story of David and Jonathan. David was a young shepherd in Israel. Jonathan was the son of King Saul.
The two young men became friends after David killed the wicked Philistine warrior, Goliath. And Jonathan remained a faithful friend even after his father became murderously jealous of David.
Jonathan also warned David of King Saul’s evil intentions. David fled for his life and spent years on the run, despite his incredible loyalty to the king.
In the end, the Philistines killed Jonathan in battle. King Saul fell on his own sword, killing himself rather than falling into enemy hands.
David was grief-stricken when he heard about Jonathan and the king’s deaths. David became king of Israel and later showed great compassion for Jonathan’s disabled son, Mephibosheth — even having him as a regular dinner guest.
The friendship shared between David and Jonathan was rich and lifelong and a great example of loyalty.
Various Bible verses also touch on the subject of friendship.
We find the topic in verses like Proverbs 18:24, which talks about “…a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
There’s Romans 12:10, which says: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (English Standard Version).
And one of the most poignant verses in all of Scripture records the words Jesus spoke before his death on the cross.
We find them in John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (New Living Translation).
As Christians we know Jesus is the best friend we could ever ask for — the 24/7 Savior who is with us and understands and loves us, like no other.
Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and rose from the grave. If we believe that and repent (turn from our sins) and ask Christ into our hearts, we can be saved and go to heaven. It’s a free gift of love from God that we don’t have to earn or buy.
That’s great news not just at Easter, but all through the year.
I find that it’s also comforting news when people we love die.
Vivian loved the Lord and shared that love with those around her.
I don’t know that she’s eating M&Ms in heaven or sharing a sandwich with someone, but I have to think Vivian is thrilled to be closer to God than she’s ever been and able to see loved ones she hasn’t seen in a long time. I imagine her getting to see her grandfather with his legs restored and her daughter, Cheryl, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
And I’m grateful I had the opportunity to get to know Vivian while she walked on this earth.