Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking the Other Way

The other day, I was going through my mom's desk, and I found a small box. When I opened it, I found all sorts of little figures made out of clothespins, dressed in costumes. It was a nativity scene that Mom had made with Lucy a couple of years ago. She would take care of the girls while I was at work, and one December, she and Lucy crafted a different figure or two each day that she came over.

We've also been listening to the music for the school Christmas program in the car, and I keep remembering last year--how my dad drove my mom over early in the morning, and she went to Elaine's program, though she had a hard time sitting up for very long. Then she came back to our house and laid on the couch the rest of the day until it was time to go to Lucy's program in the evening. Her face looked gray and ill, but I know she knew these were the last Christmas programs she'd see. It must have cost her every bit of strength she had to make it through that day.

There's a verse in 2 Kings that to me is one of the hardest verses in the Bible: "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord." As in, "He loved God, and he died."

There's a phrase that is not allowed at our house (well, besides "shut up"), and it's: "That's not fair." I don't let my kids say that, ever. But in my own heart lately, I've been thinking about how Elaine's 5th birthday is coming up and the Christmas programs at church and school are coming and a little voice (mine) is saying, "She should be here. I wanted her to see them grow up. She loved God, and she died. It's not fair."

When I was growing up, my parents had this wonderful group of friends, mostly from their Sunday School class. I remember so many gatherings in each other's homes--Sunday nights after church, New Year's Day, 4th of July--seeing my mom and dad and their friends love each other and their families and love God. They would pray together and sit around the table and sing together, lots of laughing mixed in. When someone got sick, they would all rally around and bring meals for the family.

Two years before my mom died, I had a gathering of her old friends, just the women, to celebrate her 75th birthday. At the end, they all sat in a big circle and talked about old times--good times and hard times--and one of the ladies, Alice Dauchy, said, "Sometimes I didn't know how we were going to make it through. But Jesus led us all the way." And all the other ladies assented.

Mrs. Dauchy's in heaven now; she died of cancer six months before my mom.

Another friend, Muriel Holsteen, talked about how her son had met a girl in Germany and they came back here to get married. The girl didn't know a soul, and my mom threw her a wedding shower. My mom said, "Oh Muriel, I don't even remember that!" and Mrs. Holsteen said through her tears, "We have never forgotten it."

Mrs. Holsteen's husband, who was one of the ushers at our church for years and years, died a couple months after my mom.

Another good friend of my parents, Mr. Jim Stone, was our Sunday School superintendent when I was a little girl. Even in his 80s, he still taught Sunday School and took classes at a nearby seminary. He died of cancer a few weeks ago.

Last night I saw on the Moody Alumni Association that another of my parents' friends, who was also our church organist--Dr. Gil Mead--died over Thanksgiving weekend. Darren and I actually met in his Intro to Music class. A few years later, when we were planning our wedding, we asked Mr. Mead to play the organ for the ceremony. He said he didn't normally do weddings but, in his words, "I had a hand in this one!" so he made an exception.

Now, two more of my family's close friends, Annette Anderson and Larry Brown, are nearing the end of their life--cancer again. My mom and Mrs. Anderson were always on the phone and in and out of each other's houses, raising their kids together. Mrs. Anderson's son Dave works at my brother's company and is one of his best friends.

The Browns have been part of the fabric of our life for as long as I can remember. Their son Bill is a good friend of both my brother and me. My parents had a party years ago where everyone brought whatever white elephant items were lying around their house, my mom passed out Monopoly money, and she appointed Mr. Brown the auctioneer because he is the funniest--and they auctioned off their junk to each other. Yet besides his great sense of humor, something I'll remember always about him was the first time my mom had cancer, he came to the pre-op room to pray with her before she went in.

So many good friends and good memories.

"Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord."

My heart is aching for Bill and Dave, all the kids--my contemporaries--because I know now what it feels like. Nobody loves you like your parent. Nobody takes care of you like your mom. Nobody has got your back like your dad. Nobody can give you wise counsel or pray for you or love your kids like your parents can. I'm praying for them through the hurt I know they're feeling.

But I also keep thinking about all these awesome, godly people I've had the privilege to know. Alice Dauchy. Darrell Holsteen. Jim Stone. Gil Mead. Annette Anderson. Larry Brown. Lois Nichols. And lots more, too. What a treasure they have been and leave for the rest of us.

As my mom's best friend Nita wrote to me, "Heaven can't come soon enough now that Lois is there," or as another friend, Gordy, says, "The receiving line there looks a lot better than the send-off line here."

Our pastor is big on Scripture memory or as he says, "Rinsing your mind with Scripture." It's an area I haven't done well in in a long time, so it's been a good thing for me. Rinsing your mind with Scripture helps rewrite the soundtrack from "It's not fair." I write verses on 3x5 cards and either keep them on my kitchen counter or carry them around in my purse, continuing to go over them throughout the day. Get this--Mr. Holsteen did this throughout his life, and at his memorial service, his grandchildren got up and read the verses off his 3x5 cards.

So, in honor of these righteous people I love and am so honored to have known, these are the verses I've been carrying around with me lately.

Numbers 23:10
"Who can count Jacob's descendants, as numerous as dust? Who can count even a fourth of Israel's people? Let me die like the righteous; let my life end like theirs."

2 Peter 3:11-13
"Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day--but we'll hardly notice. We'll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness."

Lather, rinse, repeat!


Danny Lucas said...

Dear Alice,

"It's not fair!" is forbidden in your house, but is acceptable in your heart. Sometimes, "It's not fair!"

I read the growing list of folks you know who are leaving the planet. Then, I thought of my own mom, her death on her birthday at age 87 (I call her life "Four Score and Seven Years" of love).

In the next year, I attended 16 funerals, each crushing my heart into smaller pulverized parts until I could not recognise me.

There are 10 siblings still alive (my twin sisters also died, but ten of us remain) and all of them chide me that I still go to the cemetery and see mom about three times a week....she died May 21, 2008 and few of my siblings go there anymore.

But I find peace in the cemetery, meet new neighbors to my mom and dad nearly every visit, wave at the man across the street who comes faithfully every day and reads the paper aloud to his buried spouse, met the young nurse who had a soon-to-be-husband killed by a drunk driver (she placed all her wedding flowers on his grave the day they were to be married months later), a young man of age 22 who was to be best man in our family wedding, but on a surfing vacation, he snapped his neck and died young.....to many to recall, some old, some young.

My heart says "ouch" for each, and "ouch" for you and your family.

I read aloud memorized scripture at the cemetery plot holding mom and dad. They protected me; now God does, often it is Psalm 91...a prayer of pure protection.

In the fall, autumn leaves come down by the billions and have to be sucked up in a giant vacuum.
I came to take away a "light catcher" butterfly prism above mom, so it would not be sucked away by the huge leaf machine.

I came to return it the next week and there was a huge pile of dirt ON TOP of mom. The people next to dad were adding a new member, in an urn on his dad. The coffin had to be removed and the ground below the vault dug deeper to meet state law on burial height. In the wide open hole, I saw my father below ground, for the first time since 1984.

I told the grave diggers to "get out" for the ground at dad's feet was quickly giving way, and cascading into the deeper hole next to him.

I tell you, "It's NOT fair" was plastered all over my orphan heart that moment.

But scripture reading does rinse well, and takes my mind from loss to gain, helplessness to hope, hurt to healing.

So I add this one for you, Darren, and your lovely children....as it was given to me two decades ago in a moment of dramatic stress....from a stranger in a card to me.

"That is why since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I always remember you in my prayers, asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know him better.

I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people.
~~~ Ephesians 1:15-18 NCV

And when my mind is spun into confusion like cotton candy on a stick, with my brain as a stick, I always go to my favorite Bible verse on How To Think:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things."
~~~Philippians 4:8

Think. About. Such. Things.

The first year seems to be the hardest as you go through each holiday differently than in ALL your life. But eternity returns to the horizon one day unexpectedly.
My siblings told me; I still wait.
I tell them there will be no more hurt, when there is no more heart.

You are loved.
You are prayed for more often than you ever dream possible.
BOTH, will remain.

God be with ye,

Mae said...

Alice, Thank you for sharing your heart with us. The Bible verse that we have learned this week is Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I do pray the Lord will wrap His loving arms around you and comfort you during this Christmas Season. Love, Mae

choose joy said...

Alice, I found your blog through your fb page. I'm glad I did. You're a gifted writer. I'm sorry you're missing your mom! At our house, our children are taught that we don't aspire to fairness in this house either and over the years they've learned that in our house everyone gets what they need. With three of my children home(schooled) and one in public school I just heard one of my boys explain to a confused friend who couldn't understand why he wouldn't be taught at home too, "Well, that's just how it is at our house - we each get what we need." Your Heavenly Father knows what you NEED - and He will give you that today, as you miss your mom. Blessings, Jennifer

Juliet said...

So true to live godly in a world that is becoming more ungodly each day.

God is always so good to give us godly people of all ages.

What a wonderful blog to reflect on people who have gone before you.