Memorial Service for Robert Jon Lunday

Pastor Dwight Smith, June 15, 2002


The goal of our time together today is very specific: to celebrate the life of Robert Lunday. Yet we come together for a variety of reasons. Some of us are searching for answers, some of us are seeking comfort, some of us have come to say good-bye, some of us have come to support the family, some of us want to offer encouragement, or a combination of them all. But regardless of the reason, we are here—together. We are walking together through a mutual chapter of our lives; a chapter whose beginning is dark, uncertain, and sad, but whose ending is not yet written.

As we begin, I want to share a familiar portion of Scripture that talks about the cycles of life. It reads:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

We clearly understand these contrasts because they represent life as we know it. Regardless of race, culture, economics, or social status, no matter the place in the world or the epoch of time, life encounters these truths on the way.

Let me highlight one of the contrasts. It reads, " time to mourn and a time to dance." When we dance, we are usually celebrating and giving action to our joy, and it is significant to note that the writer contrasts dancing with mourning. So mourning must be more than merely an emotion that accompanies loss. Mourning is, if you will, a celebration of our grief. Often in Western Civilization, with all of our "sensibilities" rather than celebrating and embracing our grief, we squelch it. Rather than admitting to others and ourselves that we are hurting deeply, we put on propriety.

This service is designed to help you mourn as we remember Robert. I want to encourage you to find an expression that aids in your grieving. The healing effect of mourning has its greatest results as you mourn and grieve with others; all the more reason for us to gather here; all the more reason to remember Robert Lunday and pay tribute to him; all the more reason to lay aside the sensibilities in your life that prevent you from fully experiencing your grief, and embracing those around you—mourning together and thereby finding a measure of healing.


Any life thoroughly scrutinized reveals flaws. It is true of all of us. I liken those flaws in our lives to the gnarls in the branches of trees. The street I grew up on was lined with enormous oak trees. The form of those branches was especially visible on late fall nights with a bright moon. Even now, as I remember the limbs, it seems you could go little more than a few inches without the limb twisting or turning one direction or another.

That seems to be the shape of my life: periods of making good, healthy choices with moments of ill-conceived or hasty decisions that, to greater and lesser degrees, alter the course of my life. Maybe you can relate to that. Perhaps you wonder how your life might be different had you chosen this thing or avoided that one. Maybe in reflecting on the gnarls in your life you feel discouraged. You feel a familiar wash of embarrassment, regret, guilt, or shame. So what hope do we have? How can we—with our gnarled lives—have anything to offer anyone in times like these?

As I prepare for services like this one, I sense the limitations of what I can offer you. After growing up in church and spending the last ten years as a full-time pastor, I have limited answers to many of the questions many of you are asking, but what I can offer you comes from my faith: I believe each of us can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I make no apologies for my faith—for it is faith that gives meaning and hope to my life and sustains me in difficult times. The Jesuit priest, Ignatius, said, "God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines." If that is true then there is hope for all of us here today. If that is true then my prayer is that God would offer you something straight and true through my gnarled life in His hand.


Robert Jon Lunday was born on October 21, 1967 in San Jose, CA to Bob and Barbara Lunday. However his formative years were spent in Calhan, CO. He died on June 10, 2002 at Harborview Hospital in Seattle.

He is survived by: Parents—Bob and Barbara Lunday of Kent, WA. Sister—Susan McBride, husband Paul and family of Carnation, WA. And many extended family members.

His early education took place in Calhan culminating in graduating as class valedictorian of Calhan High School in 1986. He went on to University of Colorado and earned a double major—BS in Information Systems and a BA in Philosophy.

From college he found employment as a computer programmer for Hewlett-Packard and ConnectSoft. In 1995 he founded Innovative Access from his apartment providing Internet access and Web Hosting.

Among many things, he loved sailing, snowboarding, and travel—recently having explored several countries to experience events like joining 400,000 Japanese hoping to glimpse the Emperor on New Years, and participating in what sounded like the biggest two-day water fight I've ever heard of in Thailand.

He was described as having an "insatiable curiosity" that others said he constantly sought to feed as he would read, research, discuss, and investigate as fully as he could.

One person said, "There was no gray in Robert." He valued justice and challenged inequity with all he could—as is evidenced by the causes he championed and fueled with his financial, intellectual resources. If he was sold on something, he gave his all to it.

One of his proudest personal accomplishments was restoring, floating, and racing the "Endurance". The wooden sailboat posted back to back first place finishes at Port Townsend's Classic Mariner's Regatta. His sailing endeavor brought together his love for adventure, freedom, and—perhaps most importantly—friends.

He loved spending time with family and friends playing games and sharing food—which is exactly what he was doing on his final day. He could get along with anyone, and engaged everyone, including children—as evidenced by his nieces and nephew flocking to him even when their beloved grandparents were present.

He spoke highly of friends to his family, and spoke highly of his family to his friends. That was probably due in part that his family members were also his friends, and his friends were also his family. His house was a "home" to many who were always welcome to come and go as they had need.

Either from discussions or the website memorial, I have noticed these words repeatedly used to describe Robert: Generous, Loving, Loyal, Resolute, Adventurous, Fun-Loving, Visionary, Kind-Hearted, Noble, Brilliant, Warrior, Integrity, but most commonly—Friend.

Now, his family would like to show you the video of Robert's valedictory address from his high school graduation.



In looking-out today the word that comes to mind is "relationship". The thing that seems to separate humans from all other creatures is our capacity for relationship. Science has shown us that other creatures interact and emote: many live in a social order and community. But in terms of our capacity for deep, intimate heart, soul, and mind relationships, human beings stand alone. I believe in God as the Divine Creator, and I believe that, as Creator, he has designed us for relationship. It seems evident in this gathering here. What draws us together today is not any particular part of the program, but merely being together—to seek comfort and encouragement.

Over the last few days—through phone calls, in emails, and over coffee—you have sought out each other to reflect both on your relationship with Robert and your relationship with each other. Some of you have sought-out dear ones you have not spoken with in years, and at the end of many of those conversations and catching-up you were purposeful in saying the words, "I love you", or some similar expression of the value you place on that person and the relationship you share together.

Maybe you wish you could turn back the clock a week, or a year, or a decade hoping you could have done something to prevent this tragedy or say something to Robert that has gone unsaid. Perhaps you have looked inward and seen the petty nature of your complaints. You see that as a society we are consumed with trivial matters. After you evaluate your life, you want to correct the disproportionate amount of tasks in your life in order to focus on the people that surround you. Yet time is not standing still—life is not standing-by waiting for you. So what do you do? What do we do? We need to slow down—pare back the busy-ness of life, and remember what is most important: we are made for relationship.

Life often doesn't seem fair. Bad things happen. Good intentions are thwarted. Sometimes the things we most desire for those we love the most do not materialize. And we wonder why. And here is the answer. Because God has given us a powerful tool, the power to choose: to choose relationship or isolation, good or bad, straight or gnarled. But it's because of that same power to choose that life sometimes is fair. Bad things don't always happen. Good intentions often prevail. Yet no matter how much you desire something for those you love, they alone must choose it for themselves.

Listen to these words of wisdom:

"9Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
10If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)."

There is an important line in this passage that stands out to me, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." The writer spends ten lines talking about two being better than one, and the final line speaks of three strands. Why three? I believe that if the first two strands represent our relationship with each other, then the third strand represents our relationship with God. God who created us with the capacity for meaningful relationships—like you shared with Robert—on this horizontal plane, also created us with the capacity for a meaningful personal relationship with Himself on the vertical plane. We clearly have the capacity for both, and yet we may choose to fill that capacity with other things—lesser things.

A favorite lyric of mine from the song "Hurricane" by David Wilcox states, "You can get what's second best, but it's hard to get enough." I implore you to fill the relationship capacity of your life with only "first best" things: relationships with people that move you more and more toward achieving the potential of your life, and a personal relationship with a loving, caring God who desires a relationship with you'the child He created.

I began the service talking about being together here and the many reasons we have come. You have let the attention to your differences be replaced by attention to what you have in common. Why? Because you are living the same chapter of the same story, and much of the plot is out of your control. You have all been touched by the life and death of Robert Lunday, and so you have come together; searching and hoping for yourselves, offering comfort and encouragement to others, and perhaps leaving this place willing to act differently toward those around you. It is this change that can make this chapter that begins with tragedy, become a chapter that ends with hope and love. But how you choose to live out your story remains in your hands.


Closing Blessing

"The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26—IV