"It is better to go to a house of mourning," Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, "than to a house of feasting."
At the memorial service for my friend Kathy Helvey, I saw firsthand why.
The house of mourning for one who has gone home to Jesus Christ is a rich schoolroom for the living ... a reminder of what really matters ... and a time to examine one's own life.
Kathy Helvey was an amazing woman. She had an overflowing love that made her a magnet to others. “To all that know Kathy,” the memorial program said, “she brought a spark to their lives with her genuine friendship and zest for life. She was the best wife a husband could only dream of, tireless and passionate mother and confidante to her children, and faithful servant of Jesus.”
So much like Jesus
As person after person shared their memories of Kathy, many commented about how she made them feel like they were the most important person in the world. “When Kathy had her attention on you,” her cousin said, “it was like being in a ray of sunshine.”
Another friend of Kathy’s compared knowing her to reading a good book. She said when she left Kathy’s presence she always “wanted to be more like her—so much like Jesus.”
Others mentioned her smile. Her extraordinary faith. Her wise and winsome ways.
Her brother-in-law told about Kathy and her husband, Bob, bringing him to faith in Jesus Christ.
During very difficult times of life, including a four-year struggle with leukemia, Kathy fought to hold on to God’s grace. “It was so normal for Kathy and Bob to believe God,” one friend said, “even in the hardest times.”
At first glance, Kathy's death seems to be an untimely loss for those she left behind. And yet, this woman gave us a picture of authentic faith in Christ. She didn't just claim it. She lived it—every single day.
As Kathy’s own words from a radio interview were played, she herself reminded those at the memorial service that God does not make mistakes.
"Everything is Father-filtered," she said. "Everything that happens to me is from His hand, even if it is bad." She said that she wanted to see God's perspective in her trials through life, to see Jesus, and not to worry about what He would do.
A love story
During the service we also caught a glimpse of the rich love story between Kathy and her husband of 31 years. They married in 1978, after corresponding by letter across the ocean for almost three years. Kathy always signed her letters, “Alive Today.” She was a woman who was intentional about making every day count.
A long-time friend of the Helveys recalled watching Bob's hands shake when his bride-to-be had traveled to see him. He was awestruck to again see the beautiful woman who had written him letters. Not too long after this visit, Kathy Van Antwerp became Bob Helvey’s wife.
“From the first time I ever knew her,” Bob said, “She was like a shooting star that streaked through my life.” And because of her, he said, he was a better man … a better father … and he loved the Lord more deeply. Bob said that she sucked the very marrow out of life and enjoyed every day completely.
He said that other than his salvation, she was the greatest gift he had ever received in his life. And then he reminded everyone that God is loving, God is good, and God is sovereign.
“I cannot wait to embrace the promise of God,” he said, “that my kids and I will be with Kathy again.”
As I left the memorial service, it had indeed been good to be in the house of mourning. I had sat in a rich schoolroom for the living and been reminded of what matters most. I had examined my own life.
And when I closed the door to my car, I thought of Kathy Helvey and wanted to follow her example.
… to brighten each of my husband’s days.
… to seek God’s perspective and not worry about what He will do.
… to rest. Knowing that God's nature is loving, and good, and sovereign. That He always can be trusted, even on the most difficult days of life.
Kathy Helvey’s work on earth is done. And she is more “Alive Today” than ever.
She has exchanged the land of death and heartache for the land of living and bliss. She now sees Jesus face to face.
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