I was walking down the hallway at church with an enormous bouquet of roses when Pete Radke stopped me and said excitedly, “Who gave you those?” I cheerfully informed him that I was simply the delivery girl; the roses were from my parents for someone else, and I was on my way to the recipient. He promptly said, jokingly, “Oh you shouldn’t tell people that, you look so impressive carrying them,” like it was a huge let down that someone had not just madly confessed their love for me with a huge wad of flowers. We both laughed and went on our ways, and I’ll never forget that funny moment and those “impressive” roses.
I was acquainted with Pete through his wife, Michelle (she and I sing on worship team together at church). Whenever I saw him at church on the weekends, his demeanor was always just like his picture (over there on the right), a warm smile and a genuine interest in how your life was going.
Pete gave his life last weekend, helping to rescue someone at Lake Erie (read the full story), and yesterday, I went to his funeral. And it was huge. Some 1500 people came to the calling hours, and probably around 600-700 attended the funeral. I had the privilege of singing as part of the vocal choir for his funeral, and standing on stage looking out at the jam-packed auditorium was stunning. I was floored at the impact Pete had on his world with only 43 short years of life.
After the funeral, I was talking to a couple guys who played in the worship band for the funeral, and we all agreed that other people’s funerals make us wonder about our own. Who will come? What will they say about us? What will be the measure of our life when it’s all said and done?
Pete measured his life and success by whether it was significant or not, and seeing a room jam-packed with people who had been personally impacted by him made me realize what I want my own funeral to be like someday.
As an artist, as a singer, as someone hoping for a career in music, in performing, it is natural to dream about singing for stadiums filled with people, and to get really excited when someone says they love watching you on stage, or they really connected to a song you wrote, and so on. Of course my pipe dream is to “hit it big” and sing for stadiums filled with people around the world, and win awards, and be considered an influential artist for my time. I DO hope people will hear my songs and connect to them and be served by them (because in my mind, my art is not fully alive if it doesn’t communicate with and nourish people).
And while I’m not saying that fame and personal impact are mutually exclusive, I hope I’m not famous – or at least not only famous. I hope that at the end of my life, on the day after I take my last breath, and they do with my body whatever they must, that people don’t come to my funeral because they heard my songs or saw me on a stage or admired me from a distance. I hope my funeral is like Pete’s funeral, and people come because I had a personal impact on their life, because they knew me and I knew them, and they felt loved by me, and loved by Jesus because of me.
And lest I do Pete’s life a grave disservice, I simply must mention his faith. Pete loved & followed Jesus, was loved by Jesus, and was able to have the impact he did because every day, he gave away the love that Jesus had given him– to his family, friends, co-workers, church family and eventually the stranger he helped to rescue on Lake Erie.
That is what I want my life to be about and my funeral to measure up to – the full and wonderful significance of being loved by Jesus and giving that love away.