Publishing lost a good man on Sunday. No, more to the point, the world lost a good man. Ron Benrey–author, publisher, one-time agent, master debater, theologian, teacher, and a wonderful husband and father, a man possessed of deep kindness and wisdom–passed from this world to God’s side on Sunday. Just moments before the heart attack that ushered him into eternity, he was doing something he dearly loved: boating. I had to smile when I realized that Ron went from joy to joy.
Just last week I was talking with a group of friends about funerals, and about what a good idea it is to plan your funeral ahead of time. I shared that I’d done so years ago, when I started traveling so much. I wanted to make things as easy as possible for my family should something happen to me. I also wrote letters to my family and friends, telling them what they meant to me and how much I was blessed by them. I wanted the last words they heard from me to be words of love and appreciation.
Today, on a number of email loops, I read those kinds of words about Ron. Words filled with sadness, but also with a recognition of how special Ron was. And I wondered, as I’ve done many times, why is it that we too often don’t talk or write about how much someone means to us until after they’re gone? The Bible study my husband and I attended for 20 years did something about that. Twice a year, at our retreats, we did what we called “Living Eulogies.” We formed a circle, and each person took a turn in the center of the circle, while the rest of us told them how much we cared about them and what was special about them. Even now, years later, I remember those words of appreciate and love.
So what does all of this rambling have to do with you? Well, it got me to thinking about the importance of our words in the lives of those around us. We writers spend day after day immersed in words—on the page or computer screen. But are we letting the gift of words that God has given us reach out to bless those around us? Especially those closest to us? How often do we tell those we love how blessed we are by them? When’s the last time you told your spouse or kids or parents what you enjoy about them or what makes them special in your heart?
Friends, we all need to know we’re cherished. We need to know we’ve touched someone’s life. We need to know those last words, those things people usually only say after someone dies, now. Today. Stop what you’re doing, go look a loved one in the eyes, and share the words they need to hear. Make those “last words” into the first words you speak each day. Words of love and appreciation, words to build up and encourage. Don’t wait another moment. Because we have no idea how many moments we—or anyone—have left.
You’ll be a blessing, friends. And you’ll be blessed as well.
This is wonderful advice. I once ask my employees to write notes of appreciation to each other. The results were unexpected. One man said, “I didn’t know anyone even cared about me.” What a boost in morale among co-workers.
Andrea (Wood) Nell
Great reminder, Karen. Sorry for your loss. I appreciate you and all the Steve Laube blogers who take time to share your knowledge each day. Thank you!
I’d heard about Ron’s death yesterday and it was a shock. I first met both him and Janet several years ago at the Mid-Atlantic Christian Writers Conference. They taught a workshop together, and I thought he was a good speaker.
This is very good advice, Karen! It’s so sad that we usually tell others how much we appreciate them AFTER they’re gone.
I had the pleasure of Janet being my agent until she retired from agenting and began Greenbrier with Ron. I have so many fun memories of Ron fro the Blue Ridge conference and the many times he, Janet and I went into town for dinner. Ron was one of the first people to recognize the potential of Novel Rocket (Novel Journey back then) and offered some good advice. Ron taught me one of the biggest “light bulb” moments in my writing career. Wherever Ron was, you’d find a good debate and lots of laughter. I’ll miss him.
I like your reminder, Steve. Remember to tell people what they mean to us today.
Karen, thank you for this tribute to Ron and for your sagacious words.
I have a history with Ron, though I met him face to face only once–at Write!Canada 2010. Greenbrier took the chance on my debut novel (The Third Grace), and its publication gave me the opportunity to submit it to The Word Guild and subsequently receive the Grace Irwin Award in 2012. I owe a lot to Ron and I look forward to catching up with him again some day!
Meanwhile, I’ll remember your advice, Karen, and pull myself away from my laptop more often to “eulogize” those who are still living here in the flesh with me.
This post makes me smile. While I never met Ron, I wish I had. More to the point though, this post betrays the loving character of the author. How like you, Karen, to care so much about the people you love to make this preparation for them! When most of us would be dreading our demise, you are worried about making more work for your family, and more grief for those you love. Yup. I’ve always known you were pretty extraordinary. But this sinks it. Swish. We appreciate you Karen, and the way your kind and gentle heart always brings us to our knees to think about the true, the divine, the broader perspective. As NBC news Brian Williams says, “Thanks, as always!”
Wonderful truths. Amen. Makes me think of even my own son who is not where he is supposed to be and could easily leave this world in a moment. We need to feed life through our words. Though sometimes we are to deliver harder words, we also must remember that Peter says in his epistle to… speak as though speaking the very words of God.
I read most of the books they wrote for Love Inspired Suspense. Thank you for letting us know and paying tribute.
Karen, my first cousin died last month, and he never told us he was sick. He lived about 1,500 miles away, and I hadn’t seen him recently but sent emails and Christmas cards. I was sad to lose him, but downright irritated that he didn’t say goodbye. My new resolution, should I have warning that I’ll be leaving, is to say goodbye to those I love. And yes, I’ll put down my funeral plans because I have some definite ideas on that.