A True Cinderella Story

October 4th, 2009

Here are some of the words spoken by Mike Yaconelli's wife, Karla, at his funeral service in Yreka, California and memorial service in San Diego.

Michael Charles Yaconelli.

Disorganized. Full of integrity. Kind. Sincere. Intense. Eccentric. Passionate. Spontaneous. Periodically angry. Extremely bright. Painfully honest. Gregarious. Deeply insecure. A curious mix of introversion and extroversion. Fun-loving. Doubtful…faithful…faith-nurturing. Impractical. Carefree. Lonely. Adventurous. The absolute master of romance. Introspective. Inspiring. Forlorn. Tender. Energetic. Stress-cadet. Snuggly. Grace obsessed. Grace filled. Passionate. Poetic. Road rager. Hilarious. Both steady and erratic. Sensitive. Moral. Selfless. Carefree and whimsical. Prophetic. Artistic. Unruly. Wise. Honorable. Angst-infested. Rebellious. Generous beyond description. God-haunted. Jesus lover. Jesus stalker. Jesus inhabited.


Michael, from the day I met him in my mid-20s, was recklessly intent on chasing after his buddy Jesus. He's a man who was the incarnation of that Jesus to many other people… but most of all to me. Over and over again throughout our marriage, my husband reinforced, challenged, affirmed, strengthened, deepened, prodded, rekindled, and recharged my faith. Up to the very end, his insight into matters of faith continued to blow me away (and still do). As he deepened and changed, I continued to be intrigued and enchanted by the mystery of Michael Yaconelli.

The number of cards, e-mails and posts to the Youth Specialties Web site that mention how Michael transformed people's lives through his writing, speaking, and friendship has been completely overwhelming. But what many people probably don't know is that Michael completely transformed my life, as well.

As a young girl, I wholeheartedly believed in the classic storybook romance.

As a young divorced woman with a toddler, a woman who hadn't evenbegun to heal from a very rough four-year marriage and who had made some very bad decisions (accompanied by a truckload of associated guilt and shame), I forced myself to reject the fairy tales and to accept the fact that Cinderella did not exist…at least, not for me. But through time, persistence, patience, and a whole lot of love, Michael—as Jesus in really adorable human skin—restored my relationship with God and lifted me from the pit of despair to the heights of joy.

Early after Michael's death, I was expressing to our youngest daughter Jessica that, while I knew it was untrue that I would never see Michael again, never seeing him again on this side of heaven still felt like an unbearably long time. Wise beyond her years, she said to me, “Oh mama, you'll see him every night in your dreams.” And after some very heavy tears, I said to her, “You're right—because that's exactly where he came from.”

Twenty-some years ago, Michael Yaconelli walked straight out of my rejected fairy-tale dreams into my disillusioned life and heart, and he gently breathed the sparkle back into me…and I've gotten to be Cinderella for almost 2-1/2 decades. From the beginning to present, the romance never diminished. The romance certainly hasn't ended with his death. I know that in addition to your grief over the loss of Michael's presence in your own lives, part of your grief is also for me (and, of course, our children and extended family). It's true, my heart is literally broken. So yes, it's right and good and compassionate for you to grieve and be sad for me, because there are days that the anguish is so thick it renders me inconsolable. However, there are a couple of things I need you to know and remember when you think of me:

The first is that Michael and I crammed more fun, more love, more adventure, more passion and play into our time together than most people have in an entire lifetime. There are many people whose Cinderella dreams never do come true. Mine did. And my gratitude for the years we did have will sustain me, because it's far greater than my sorrow that we didn't have more.

The second is that there is no unfinished emotional business. No baggage. No rifts or pain among family or friends that were not healed. Nothing we wanted to say that was left unsaid, and nothing undone or incomplete…with anyone. Absolutely no regrets. None. And that's one of the greatest gifts of all.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.