Post author: Mic Johnson
In July of this year I got word that my longtime friend Missy Whalen had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I’ve known Missy since grade school and she has always been like a sister to me. Her laugh was as infectious as anyone I’ve ever known…and I absolutely loved making her laugh.
Missy died on November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving. She was 43 years old.
I was asked on behalf of the family to write and read the eulogy. It was one of the most humbling and difficult things I’ve ever done….and one of the greatest honors of my life.
I’ve included a link to the eulogy below along with several thoughts from my experience over the last couple of weeks.
I’ll be honest. I don’t exactly know what you’ll take away from my experience, but I promise you this: If you take some time out of your busy day today…or save this post to read later…you will walk away with some perspective you didn’t have before.
I felt an incredible sense of responsibility to honor my friend Missy, to acknowledge the loss, to provide hope and healing for the future, and to leave family and friends with a living document that would help them heal and remember Missy for years to come. I spent around 15-20 hours writing and editing the eulogy. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but was also comforting and cathartic for me as I grieved. Knowing that I was doing it for Missy and her family is what kept me going.
Missy would have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for her family and all of the people that gathered to celebrate her life. It got me thinking about how I wish there was a way for the deceased to feel the love from all of those people BEFORE they passed. It also served as a great reminder to make sure you tell people how you feel about them while they’re still alive.
I’ve known this for a long time, but it was validated for me once again during the last couple of weeks. I was in awe of the amount of love that surrounded Missy and her family during her illness and after she passed. And many of the friends that gathered were people that I’ve known for most of my life. We don’t see each other as often, so I made a conscious effort to soak up every minute of that time spent together.
As you get older, funerals and class reunions are often the only time you get lifelong friends together. My advice: Do everything you can to be at those moments because the memories will stay with you forever.
I can’t tell you how comforting it was to give and receive so many hugs at the eulogy and funeral. That human connection is something we all need more of in life.
The hardest thing about perspective is keeping it…and nothing gives you perspective on the fragility of life like the death of someone close to you.
The last few weeks reminded of the significance of Facebook. I used it to share updates on Missy, grieve with other people, share pictures, communicate details about the rosary and funeral, and even added new friends after I met them at the funeral.
It’s always hardest on the ones left behind….and that’s one of the reasons I use Facebook so regularly. I’m consciously aware that I’m documenting my life. If I died tomorrow, my wife, family and friends would be able to go back and see so many great moments, pictures, thoughts, etc. from the last several years of my life. I’m doing it for them. Not for me.
I had a conversation with Missy’s dad Dick after the funeral. Missy worked at one company her entire career…the Hutton & Hutton Law Firm (They set up a Memorial Scholarship for Missy at Bishop Carroll High School for students that go to college at Wichita State University.)
Dick told me at one point over the years that he and Missy had talked about how she might look for another job so she could make more money. But she never wanted to leave because she loved the people she worked with. He went on to say how much he realized that mattered…the people you work with…and how it’s not all about the money. He ended it by saying “I was wrong”, to which I replied: “It takes a strong man to be willing to admit that.”
I learned the “it’s not all about the money” lesson when my dad passed away…and I’m so grateful I learned it at such a young age.
You can always learn more about people, even lifelong friends, if you ask. I found out that Missy loved knitting, books on tape, and ranch-flavored sunflower seeds. While those things might seem insignificant, learning about them made all of us feel a little more connected to her as we celebrated her life.
Carpe Diem, my friends. Carpe Diem.