My mother’s best friend Gail died recently. She was 87 going on 17 going on 969. She was my friend, too, and I’m fairly certain that she loved me best. And she loved her children best. And she loved Jesus best. If you knew Gail, you also knew that she loved you best. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Gail loved everybody best. She was so busy loving everybody that we’re all a little shocked that she had time to die. I imagine that there was some bargaining with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates before Gail agreed to pass through.
To say that Gail was one of a kind is a monumental understatement. She was feisty, funny, and sometimes irreverent. She once told her pastor, with a smile on her face, that he was a dumb—. And she loved him best.
Gail was loving, generous, and wise. In her “younger days” (back in her ‘60’s), she and my dad would visit church members who were in nursing homes—they frequently argued over who was going to drive. When my dad himself ended up in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s a few years later, Gail was a regular visitor, and when my mom was unable to visit Dad to help him with lunch, Gail went and stood in her stead. Because she loved my dad and mom best.
When she was no longer able to drive, Gail had a greeting card ministry. She regularly sent birthday cards, get well cards, and cards for no other occasion than she was thinking about you and she loved you best.
In the last couple of years, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Gail about once a month. We’d have coffee and talk about everything and nothing for a couple of hours. Before a recent visit, I called to check that she had an opening in her calendar for me. She laughed and said, “I’ll be here waiting with bells on!” If you knew Gail, you can predict what happened. When I arrived at her door a few days later, her “earrings” were huge red Christmas bells!
It was no secret that Gail shamelessly flirted with my husband Mike. And he flirted right back. She even kept his framed photo next to her favorite chair. She and I texted one another regularly, and she concluded every text with, “Love you. But I love Mike best.”
When I found out that she was in the hospital, I texted, “How’s my favorite octogenarian?” She fired right back, “Kiss my butt.” And then she reminded me that she loved Mike best.
That was the last text that I got from Gail. And I still know that she loved me best.
A few days before she went to meet Jesus, Gail had to have emergency surgery. Her daughter shared this story with me:
We just got home from nightly visit. [Gail] was aware of her surroundings—she knew us. She said she was not in pain. She called us by name and told us that she loved us. She kept saying, “John 9 and 10.” She spelled it out. “J-O-H-N N-I-N-E.” She was telling us the Bible says Jesus Heals!
In the passage that Gail referenced, the Apostle John tells the story of Jesus healing a blind man. We all took Gail’s statement as a sign that she was going to recover from her surgery—she would be healed. Gail knew for a fact that God was going to heal her, and as much as family and friends prayed for her physical healing on earth, Gail’s healing was of the eternal kind. Praise God!
Just before Jesus healed the blind man, He told His disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Jesus is the light of the world, and Gail was the light of Christ to everyone she met. Light was, in fact, God’s first creation (Genesis 1:1-4):
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let their be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good….
When God created Gail, I’m pretty sure that He quickly realized that He had created a treasure. And that she loved Him best. In his eulogy at Gail’s memorial service, the Rev. Ken Freshour said, “When Gail died, a light went out in this world.” I couldn’t agree more, Ken. A bright, sparkly, funny, delightful, love-filled light. And she loved us all best.
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