Sunday of this week Shelley and I attended the memorial service of Madeline, a woman we have known since we pastored a north Seattle church nearly three decades ago.

Madeline was within a couple of years of 90 when she died. As I’ve learned from doing many funerals and memorial services, the older you are the fewer the friends you have—because most have predeceased you. This means that unless you are deeply loved by your congregation, or your local family is numerous, your memorial attendance is likely to be low.

Not Madeline’s. The church was healthily filled, even though there was only one family member in attendance. And the service—normally quite brief for a very old person—lasted over an hour and a half. And much of that time was filled by person after person who stood to their feet and testified how caring and helpful and encouraging this small 4’ 5” woman was.

How do you live your life so that people will sincerely regret your departure? Do as Madeline did. (I delivered the eulogy, so this is why I know the following.) Up until her last year, Madeline never missed church unless she was deathly sick. She was always on time. She took positions of service in the church—often the more challenging and less desirable ones. For decades she corresponded with prisoners through a program called “Someone Cares.”

She met weekly with a group of ladies who called themselves the Lunch Bunch at a buffet restaurant, and would personally visit others who were housebound. She sent church bulletins to people who weren’t able any more to attend. She told children’s stories at church. She even pushed the button to activate the buzzer that told all the Sabbath School teachers that time was up! And she did far more.

And though short and slow, she has left a gaping hole in her appreciative church family.

See you in the morning, Madeline!