I've seen one family walk through the fullness of "it was the worst of times and it was the best of times."
He never took life too seriously and was the type of father you knew would one day turn into a wonderful grandfather when his three kids got around to having their own.
After hearing the news, I caught the first plane out-of-town to be with my friend and her family.
For several days. Kristina's parents' house was now full of loved ones, flowers galore and food enough to feed a southern army.
When it came time to sleep the night before the funeral, I asked where I should go. Kristina had joined her mom in the king sized bed in her room, now cold with grief and loss.
The next morning, Kristina, her mom and I got ready together in the adjoining bathroom for the funeral.
Kristina's mom had always called me "just another family member" so she said numerous times in between tears, "I'm so glad you are here."
I sat with the family at the memorial service.
We cried together rivers of tears.
When all was said and done, I slept (or pretended to sleep) on the floor next to them the following evening.
The three of us were together in grief that day. I will always remember.
This time, nearly 8 years later, we sat around in a bedroom for a completely different reason, though.
Kristina's mom was getting married again. She was the matron of honor and I was the minister.
And a new man was in the room with us-- a man who would be her new husband, a kind and gentle and loving man, a wonderful addition to this already wonderful family.
As I watched Kristina help put on her mom's white dress and make sure her hair was perfectly aligned and her necklace was on straight, I couldn't help but have my mind go back to that moment when the three of us were in a bedroom together many years ago.
But yet on this day, I saw this mom say with her bright smile:
"Yes, it can. It really can. Life can be beautiful if you give it time." Happiness can come, she declared to the world if you hang on to hope!
And what a testimony this weekend was for me-- when life is rocky, just hang on.
For just as bad times seek to destroy us, the good comes too! I'm glad I'm around to see what comes next-- both the sorrow and the joy that will be.