the four of us siblings (Eric, Emily, me, and Julia) this past Christmas at the Colosseum in Rome
Dear friends, my heart is so full. Over the past 9 days you have loved us so well, and we hardly know where to begin to thank you. I have received so many emails and messages that I haven't responded to yet; over the course of this week I hope I can answer each of you individually. Thank you for sending every precious word, for preparing meals, for baking cookies, for delivering flowers, for being there on Saturday, for giving me a hug, for showing us all that you love us and that you are praying for us and that you're here for us. We need you now.
I want to share with you as we process through these days and weeks of grief, and so I want to begin writing regularly this week. I know that you want to be there for us and pray for us according to our needs; I know that you are hurting too and you want to grieve and process with us. I'll try to let you know, humbly and achingly and slowly.
For today, I thought you might enjoy reading over the letters and tributes that Emily, Eric, and I wrote for our sister Julia and read at her memorial service. These came from the deepest corners of our hearts. Here they are, in the order we read them at the service on Saturday.
My dear littlest sister,
Ever since you were a baby, you have had two names. The first is Julia, the name our parents gave you. The second is your nickname: Booie. Daddy called you that when you were little and somehow it stuck. It became official when we were living in India and decided to have a vote on how Booie should be spelled, since people were always asking us where it came from and why we called you that. We elected that we would spell it B-o-o-i-e. And as our friends and family can attest, we three siblings never really called you anything else.
The other night, as I lay in bed missing you, I thought about your names and how descriptive they are of you. Julia. You were our jewel, the last child, our baby girl, the beloved little sister. You were our golden girl, with your endless blond curls and clear blue eyes. But Booie suited you so well, too. You were lighthearted, ever cheerful, bobbing along determinedly through the storms of life. Just like a ship’s buoy in a harbor, you had your anchor planted firmly in the ground and your face in the sunshine, and you stayed afloat no matter how rough the seas.
Now that you are gone, we are in the Shadowlands. And they are so bleak. Where is my little sister, my little jewel, my strong Booie, when I need her most? And then I am reminded that I have another Jewel, and another buoy to help me through life’s storms. You had the same priceless Jewel and the same sturdy buoy in your life; his name is Jesus. He is truly our jewel, the pearl of greatest price, our greatest treasure. He told us that we will have treasure in Heaven, and I always thought that was mostly about Him, that He was our treasure. Now I know it’s also about you, because you are our treasure, and you are in Heaven with Him. And Jesus is also our ship’s buoy during this time. We can lash ourselves to Him and weather the storms of grief now because He will keep us firmly anchored, steadily afloat, no matter how rough the seas. We will not drift, we will not sink, if we are tightly tied to Him.
I love you and I miss you, my precious baby sister.
All my love,
For as long as I can remember, we've been racing. With just eighteen months between us, we constantly competed with one another -- whether it was who could grab the biggest brownie first, who looked older, or who could guess the song first on the radio. But no matter what the category, you were always faster. Despite several years of trying to beat you in 50-meter freestyle, you finished 1 second before every single time. And I never managed to grow that extra half-inch you always had on me.
As we got older, though, our relationship transformed. We no long raced against each other, but rather with each other. We came to each other daily for advice, comic relief, and spiritual encouragement. This past July 4th we ran an 8K in Arlington, Virginia together. From the firecracker to the finish line, you and I ran every single step side by side. This race is like our relationship-- a relationship wherein we continually spurred one another on to "run with endurance the race that is set before us," as described in Hebrews 12.
But now, for the first time in our lives, we are separated. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul writes: "...the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Paul's words are now true for you. You have kept the faith. You have finished the race.
Today in the midst of my grief, I rejoice in the hope that one day we will run together again. Although next time we will not race against each other or even with each other -- but rather toward each other...in a sweet and glorious reunion. When I picture entering heaven and seeing you for the first time, I imagine you singing these lyrics from one of my favorite songs:
I'll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan,
I'll be waiting drawing pictures in the sand.
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with a shout!
And go running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand.
Booie, I praise the Lord for giving you to me as a dear sister and best friend for nineteen years. I cannot wait to be with you again, as we stand once again side-by-side, in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
With all my heart,
My sister Julia is someone who always overcame every challenge laid before her.
I remember when she was just four years old and my family was living in Pakistan, my father decided to take us on a hiking trip in Nepal. Concerned that Julia might not be able to hike the trip, he hired a Sherpa to carry her in a basket on his back. On the first day, Julia was put into this basket and proceeded to protest so loudly I am quite certain there was an avalanche thundering down every slope in the entire Himalayan mountain range. So we took her out of the basket, and she hiked the entire six days through the world’s most rugged mountain range on her short, little, four-year-old legs without holding anyone up.
Earlier this year, my family went skiing in France with a close family friend, Daniel Roe. Julia had not been skiing many times before, but all of us knew that she is the type of person to tackle challenges and overcome them. So we encouraged her to go down some of the steeper slopes. She would stand at the top of the slopes and peer over the precipice suspiciously, saying, “I don’t know Eric! That’s a little big! Just a little big for Booie!” But Julia is an overcomer. And pretty soon she’d be flying down the hill like a pro, with me following closely behind trying desperately to keep up – and almost always failing. I marveled at her ability to overcome her fear and press on with confidence.
Just a few weeks ago, Julia gave a letter to a friend who posted the letter to Facebook for all of us to cherish after Julia passed away. In this letter, Julia comments on the song Abide With Me, which we will be singing later in this service. In this song are the lyrics:
“I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is thy sting, death?
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is thy sting, death?
Where, grave, thy vict’ry?
I triumph still, Abide with Me.”
In commenting on these lyrics, Julia said, “I like this because it’s saying, hey! I believe in God so that pretty much trumps everything – even death! You don’t have to be scared of it because He’s at hand, right beside you.”
It appears from this comment, written just a few weeks before she passed away, that Julia overcame her fear of death.
And last Saturday, a week ago today, Julia completed her final challenge. Through the precious blood of her savior Jesus, she was victorious over death itself.