Six years ago, a dear friend of mine died and I wrote a piece in her honor, called, “ My Ode To Michelle Beckman.” I would like to share that piece with you, but before I do, I want to tell you that I learned something about suffering from Michelle. I learned that many times– people who are suffering, can enter into others’ suffering and help them. When our son died, I allowed Michelle to enter into my suffering, because she had cancer, and she was suffering herself. I knew she understood suffering.
I have also found that because of my suffering, others would share their stories of suffering with me. They trusted me, they took off their masks and let me see their suffering.
Scripture talks about that if one of us in the body is hurting, others in the body share in that suffering, (I Cor. 12:26). Honestly, before the death of my son, I have tried to avoid suffering, and so avoided sharing in the suffering of others.
The times where God has allowed me to join in another’s suffering, have been times where I was most aware of God’s presence, love and strength. I know that these are actually great gifts from God, and have revealed the Lord more fully in my eyes. Michelle was one of the people God used to teach me these things. So without further ado:
My Ode to Michelle Beckman
August 11, 2016
Dear Family & Friends,
My friend Michelle Beckman stepped into eternity yesterday. She walked past that line that has many of us wondering what she found. I’ve read the posts on her wall, each one was a testimony to her love for God and love for others. They were each an encouragement to me, as I face the future without her friendship.
I met Michelle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was finishing up her degree in teaching at Marquette University. She became a christian her freshman year in college when another college student named Mary Kay shared with her how she could have a relationship with God. Michelle never got over the wonder that the Creator of the Universe wanted her so much that He left all the glory of heaven, took on the limits of human flesh, suffered and died for her. Her God was an intensely personal, loving, consuming God.
Michelle got involved with Cru, and was discipled by Margaret Yu for two years. When Margaret left Milwaukee, I came as the Cru staff woman, and I met Michelle.
Michelle and I had one semester together before she left to do her student teaching. Honestly, when we reconnected 3 years ago, I had very vague memories of her. I knew that I knew her—but I didn’t remember many of the details.
She told me that I had a sleepover party where we stayed up all night talking, and she told me the story of her relationship with her Dad. I looked at her and asked, “Have you forgiven him?” She said this question sent her on a 10 year journey of asking herself that same question? (I am now a parent of adult children—and believe me when I say—one could be the very best parent one could be, and there would be a need for a child to forgive a parent, just as there is a need for a parent to forgive a child.)
When we reconnected, Michelle told me about her cancer. I had lost a very good friend to cancer before this—my best friend in fact—and it was agony for me. My heart was broken, my grief overwhelming. I had also lost my dad. I knew what it was to grieve—and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to get all that close to Michelle. She would be hard to resist.. She asked great questions, she listened, she cared, she laughed, she had depth and spiritual discernment. What more could you ask for from a friend?
Two weeks after we reconnected, my son Sean was killed when he was out on a training bike ride. He was hit by a car.
Michelle ran to help me. She entered into my suffering. I don’t know how else to describe what she did. She sent me a book that she heard about on a radio show. She said the Holy Spirit told her to send me this book. It was called, LAMENT FOR A SON,… It was a father’s journal that he wrote after losing his son in a mountain climbing accident. One of the things that he said that resonated with me was, “If someone is worth loving than they are worth grieving.”
She sent me a CD of worship songs. We wrote back and forth to each other on a consistent basis.
She suffered with me. I do not know how else to describe it. She wasn’t afraid of suffering. She did not avoid the pain.
This is quite amazing to me because I would have avoided the pain of her suffering, if not for my own. And honestly, if she had not been suffering, I would not have let her enter into mine. Other friends had tried to enter into my suffering, and share this pain, but my walls were high, my barriers strong.
When scripture talks about sharing in Jesus’ suffering for the sake of His church, I think I finally know what that means. I have experienced Michelle sharing in my suffering, and these last months of her life, I have been privileged to enter into her suffering.
One of Michelle’s greatest prayers, is that God’s people would be fully surrendered to our Lord. I know that fear is what keeps me from surrendering. Fear of pain, fear of suffering. “When you face the thing you’ve always feared, you learn you have nothing to fear, for God is with you through it all.” This is a direct quote of my friend, Becky Crain, when she found out she had stage 4 breast cancer when she was 5 months pregnant. She entered into eternity when her baby was 4 months old.
All my life I have tried to escape from pain and suffering. God has used Michelle to show me how to face it, even embrace it. Knowing her has helped me grieve for my son, and all the other losses in my life; and oddly, it will even help me as I grieve for her. Also, I have finally experienced the truth of what Becky was trying to tell me all those years ago. “When you face the thing you’ve always feared, you learn you have nothing to fear, for God is with you through it all.”
May We Be Encouraged