I was honored today to be a part of the worship team for the funeral of my friend Sydney Gaylord. It was a powerful worship service, and one of only 2 funerals I’ve been a part of that had a celebratory atmosphere – the other being my grandmother’s. Sydney loved Jesus, and trusted him, and it was fitting today to say goodbye to such a vibrant woman with joy, hope, and thankfulness shining through our sadness.
Many of you will already know Sydney’s story, but for those who don’t, it’s worth knowing. Sydney was 35 – born in 1976 the same as me. She was a wife and mother, vibrant, energetic, creative, loyal, and supremely relational. She was beautiful, inside and out, and possessed that wonderful ability to make you feel at home and valued, whether you’d known her for years or for minutes. She had an air of peace and contentment, and was full of warmth and joy. She was one of those people who was good to be around.
In late December, 2008, Sydney was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When I heard the news I was stunned. Her 3rd child had been born on December 1st, my first on December 18th. We had bonded over being pregnant together, and had all kinds of fun plans of what we would do with our little ones once they were born and we were able to be out and about again. We never really got to do those things, though Sydney was blessed with good health for about 18 months after her diagnosis, and our friendship continued to grow through being in a community group together.
I’m writing about Sydney today, on my sewing blog, in part just to honor her, b/c I value her that much. But also, my friendship with Sydney is, in part, why this blog even exists, and why I am embracing, owning, and publicly expressing the creative, artsy, slightly hippie side I have always had, but kept pretty well under wraps. I remember confessing, quietly and somewhat sheepishly, one night at a community group meeting, that I would really like to play the piano in worship at church. Sydney heartily encouraged me to try, and not give up that dream just because I was scared. And now, 18 months later, I do play the piano in worship – regularly, and really enjoy it. Many many people have encouraged me along the way, and helped me along as I’ve tried to figure out how to do it well, but I don’t know if I would have tried, or how long it would have taken me to try, without Sydney’s enthusiastic encouragement.
Her main impact on me, however, is much more subtle, though more profound and life-changing. I’m not a wordsmith, and I don’t know how well I can articulate it, but somehow just knowing and spending time with Sydney opened first a window, and then a door, in me to begin to live and move and breathe in this creative side of myself that had been hidden, and somewhat dormant, for years. As I saw Sydney live creatively it awakened in me a desire to do the same thing – to live out of the part of me that sees and loves beauty, art, music, nature, and loves creating things. There’s been a slow and very subtle shift in my life and perspective – away from what I have felt like is expected of me, and more toward a life of creativity and freedom and rest. Certainly there have been many people who have encouraged this shift, and many who have inspired me by their lives, but Sydney has always come out at or near the top of that list. She had so many qualities to which I aspire – the ability to make people instantly feel important and loved, the ability to pull off vintage outfits in crazy colors, the way she embraced her artsy side – it wasn’t just a part of her, it was her. Spending time with her made me want to embrace that part of me, and to fearlessly live in it publicly.
So here I am – nowhere near where I want to be and yet having firmly stepped into the art and creativity that is, and has always been, me. Other creative friends, and people who see beauty in what I do, have overtly encouraged me more than Sydney ever did – pushing me to start this blog, to let people see the creative side of me, to talk about what I do and love, yet in my mind she has always been my inspiration. It has been her example of fearless loving, bold living, unbridled enthusiasm, and outward creative expression, coupled with her’s and my grandmother’s emphasis on people and relationships, that has pushed me out of the boundaries of my comfort and my invisible life. Sydney made me want to become visible – to give myself to others rather than hiding and cloaking the real me. So then, in part, this blog exists because of my sweet friend Sydney. This blog, and my line of little girl dresses, my public piano playing, a couple of brightly colored dresses I made for myself last fall, and most of all, the smile I wear now when I talk about who and what I love.
Sweet Sydney, your absence just these past few days feels like a gaping hole in my life and our community. Your beauty, vibrancy, and love will be sorely missed. And yet, I rejoice that you are complete, full, and well, and look forward to the day we will meet again and worship our gracious Savior together.