Dad’s Bible

Eight years ago today we got the news that my Dad had stepped into heaven.  And for eight years before that, Dad had fought a hard fight against the cancer that eventually took his life.  So many stories of that time in our family…..so many memories of the month I spent with him and Mom before he died.  I’ve written much about it in the past.

This past Thanksgiving our family gathered in West Virginia, in our hometown.  Some still live there in Princeton.  Others had far to travel.  It was an epic gathering, really, and the first time many of us had seen each other in years.  Mom and Dad would have loved it, we all found ourselves saying over and over.  Wouldn’t they have been so happy that we did this?!

And look how we have grown.  This picture was taken in the mid-90’s.

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The below picture was taken this Thanksgiving.  Yes, we have multiplied!  And we were missing a few who weren’t able to come!

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We had a wonderful time, all too short, of hugs and laughter and lots of talking as we tried to catch up with each other.  The day was over all too quickly.  As nice as it was, though, I felt like something was missing.  It just didn’t feel the same.  I realized, as I thought about it, that the something missing was actually someone who was missing……Mom and Dad.

In the past they were the center of everything.  Stories…..laughter……teasing……singing.  So much of that revolved around them, and now for the first time this very important part of all our lives was gone.  That was the huge difference that I felt.  It just wasn’t the same, and I guess it just couldn’t be without Mom and Dad there as our focus.

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I’ve been thinking today about Dad on this anniversary of his death.  And remembering the very poignant part of our recent Thanksgiving meal when my brother, John, read to us out of Dad’s Bible.  He told us this story before he read Psalm 145.  In John’s own words:

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Regarding Dad’s Bible, it started on Thanksgiving of ’15, when I reached up to a shelf at home to get a Bible to read Psa 145 for our family.  I knew it was Dad’s Bible, but didn’t remember that he had carefully marked his daily readings with the dates on which he read each section (including the introductory notes and the 500 pages or so of study notes at the end).  When I looked at Psa 145, I noticed he had read it on Nov 26, 2000, exactly 15 years to the day before I was set to read it to my family.  There was something about that divine intervention that touched me very deeply.  When I got ready to read the same chapter to our family this year, the thought hit me to check his detailed medical journals to see what he was experiencing at the same time he was reading those passages of praise in Psalms.  He was right in the middle of his radiation treatments from his first bout with cancer.  He had already had the surgery to remove two-thirds of his right lung, and had already finished the grueling chemo treatments.  Now as he took radiation, he was circling verses like Psa 116:6, 116:15, 121:7, 126:3, 127:3-5, 131:2a. 138:8, and 139:16.  What a window into his soul to see the verses that God was using to comfort him, giving him hope and trust in the greatest challenge of his life.  And so characteristic of Dad, he was not talking with everyone about this.  It was a very intimate journey with his Lord that bolstered his soul as his body suffered.  I found myself thanking God for the man he was, and wishing I could talk with him about that journey.  I probably missed him more then than at any time since he had died.  What a treasure, though, to have that record of his triumphant faith in the midst of adversity.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m so glad John shared that with us.  Dad’s “triumphant faith in the midst of adversity” never wavered as his body wavered and finally succumbed to this disease that we all hate.  Dad remained true to the Lord, to Mom, and to his family.

And now today we five children carry with us his heritage of faith, as do many of our children and grandchildren.  I’m so very thankful for that!  Of all the many things to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving Day, that would be one of the biggest.

We miss you, Dad, but we know we’ll see you and Mom again.  Thanks for showing us the importance of following Christ, and for living out your own faith so beautifully and consistently.

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This Is My Friend

Years ago a visiting couple walked into a local church here in Wichita, sliding into a pew near the back. Having a long history of working with special needs, the husband was amused to see a young man sitting in front of them with his grandmother……a young man with special needs.

“They follow us everywhere,” Scott whispered to his wife, Atha. They chuckled, and after the service Atha struck up a conversation with this grandmother. Of course she did. That was classic Atha, friendly and warm. And this grandmother couldn’t wait to find me.

“Patty!” she said. “I met a couple who were visiting here for the first time. They have a background of ministry with special needs. I’ve got to introduce you!!”

So at the first opportunity, she did just that. Atha and I talked and talked the first Sunday that we met, making plans to get together soon for a coke and more conversation. We met at Spangles one afternoon soon after, and as they say……the rest is history. We clicked. We understood one another. We were on our way to a great friendship.

Over the next couple years, Atha achieved her life’s dream of being awarded her PhD. I was so proud of her, though I had gotten in on the action late in her life and late in her dream. It was only as the years went by that I learned more and more of the sacrifice and grit that went into Atha achieving this goal. She had put this part of her life on hold as she mothered their three children, but all along she was very active in the world of teaching special needs and writing Sunday School curriculum for special needs for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. She taught students; she taught teachers; and she taught me.

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Atha taught me lots about special needs as we worked together trying to establish that ministry in our church. She taught me lots about how to teach students with special needs. She taught me lots about my own son, Aaron, although she was always quick to point out that I was the expert when it came to Aaron.

But what Atha taught me the most was what it was like to have a friend who loved unconditionally…….who stuck with me through good and bad…….who was there for me no matter how busy and complicated her own life was.

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Her phone calls were regular and so welcomed, no matter what all she had on her to-do list. Our lunch dates were refreshing to me on so many levels. And every June we made sure that on our schedules we placed a very important lunch date……one at which we celebrated our birthdays. Atha’s birthday was June 15 and mine was June 18, so we would try to celebrate close to both of those dates. I would pay for Atha’s lunch, and Atha would pay for my lunch, and we would laugh and laugh.

 

Atha took my family as her own. Not only did she take Gary and our children into her heart, as did Scott, but she also grew to love our extended families. It didn’t matter that they were clear across the country in the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina. She grew to know and love each one as if she had been a part of their lives forever.

Atha loved human beings and the stories that each person carried. She loved telling stories….she loved hearing my stories…..and she loved all the stories of the hundreds of people that she took the time to know and care for over the years.

A favorite quote from Atha tells so much about her: “Successful leadership begins with how you treat others. I challenge you to find time to be kind today.”

Atha definitely followed her own advice. No matter how busy she was as she worked to start her ADHD coaching business; taught college courses in multiple places; conducted seminars for teachers; and so many other activities……she still had time for those phone calls and visits. Time to keep in touch with me, to love me, and to be there for me no matter what. To teach me one of her most unforgettable lessons – to be established in my purpose.  https://hesaidwhatks.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/my-purpose-2/

Atha and I started going to different churches three years ago. We truly missed each other on Sundays. But I would often get a text from Atha on Sunday. “Are you worshipping?” she would ask. Or after church, she would ask what songs we sang. She and I would compare songs, and talk about what they had meant to us. Sometimes she would even text during her worship service to say, “We are singing Great is Thy Faithfulness!” That was our favorite song, one which encouraged each of us so much. We would talk about the sermons we had heard, and Atha would ask what I had learned. Ever the teacher. Ever concerned.

Atha began having some significant health issues last fall. On Dec. 26, I got a text from her son, Kyle, telling me that they were taking Atha to the ER. The day was very grey, cold, and icy…..just like my heart felt as I worried about her all that day. It was discovered that in addition to some other issues that had plagued Atha’s body, she had also recently suffered a stroke. I was shocked when I first saw her in the hospital. How sick and tired and old she looked!

On one of my visits to the hospital to see her, two CNAs came in the room to clean her. I sat behind the curtain as they worked. Soon, in typical Atha fashion, she looked at the young man and said, “Young man, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” He stammered around for an answer, not expecting such a question from this little sick woman. I just smiled. He didn’t know my Atha. She then proceeded to instruct him on setting goals and achieving them. I bet he never forgets her.

Weeks went by, with Atha sometimes rebounding and giving hope that she would recover, only to be followed by a downward turn. She would fluctuate between rehab centers and the hospital. On some of my visits with her, she would talk in her special way….slowly and with difficulty, but still like her old self.

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“What do you know today, Patty?” she would ask. She didn’t want to talk about herself, but I felt guilty talking about me and my family and my issues, so small compared to hers. But that was Atha, always concerned for me above all of her own cares.

One day in the rehab center, she was very vacant. I was worried. I couldn’t get her to engage in conversation and she seemed far away. A therapist came over to her and asked Atha to tell her who I was. Atha looked up, brightened, and said, “This is my friend, Patty Moore.” Just like she always used to do.

On Monday, March 21, I sat by Atha’s bed at the hospital. She wasn’t doing well at all, but we still hoped for a full recovery. She kept her eyes closed, but she often did that. She didn’t talk. I opened my little Bible and held it up close as I read her some Psalms. Every little bit Atha would quietly say, “Amen.” That was all. Then she asked me to pray for Jesus to heal her, so I did. And before I left, I told her I loved her, my friend. And she said she loved me, too.

On Thursday, Sarah got the call about end of life issues and hospice. No one could believe it was happening. I spent part of that evening with them at the hospital. Before I left, I leaned down to my mostly unresponsive Atha. I said some things to her, and then I told her that she would always be my dear friend. Very softly, she spoke to me. One word.

“Friend,” she said.

Atha was moved to hospice late that night. I saw her on Friday and on Saturday, where a little twitch of her mouth was the only response she gave me. On Easter morning, a gloriously beautiful morning with a soft snow and bright sunlight, Atha went to heaven. How significant that her home going was on Easter! Atha always knew how to do things right.

This morning, a couple walked into a local church here in Wichita and slipped into a pew near the back. They were dreading this day. He put his arm around her as she fought the tears that were forming. Gary and I were here for Atha and for Scott, like they had always been present for us. But I just never dreamed it would be in this way. Never in a million years.

Many people were in that church this morning to honor Atha. As part of the service, people were given time to tell their stories of Atha…..of how they knew her…..of what she meant to them…..of how she had impacted their lives. She would have loved the stories, even though they were about her. She did love hearing and telling stories, after all. It was wonderful to hear just a small sample of how she had blessed and helped so many.

I’ll always treasure the many Atha stories I have tucked away in my memory and in my heart. Too many to tell here, that’s for sure. But suffice it to say that the best thing that Atha could ever have said to me is the last thing she ever said to me.

Friend.

And with that, I am beyond blessed.

This is my friend, Atha McNay.

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The Nail Trim

I remember climbing on my Daddy’s lap when I was a little girl.  He was sitting in his chair near the fireplace, with his shelves of books on one side and his end table on the other.  His newspaper was on the end table where he could eventually read it at the end of a busy, tiring day on the railroad.  His Bible was also laying there within easy reach.  He read his Bible often as he sat in his chair. He was always ready and willing to listen to my questions about what the Bible said about this and that, especially as I got older.

 
But when I was little and would climb on his lap, I remember the gentleness that he showed.  In the early years he smelled of pipe tobacco and smoke…..that subtle odor that comforted me.  I can still see him emptying his pipe of the old tobacco and then refilling it with fresh, tapping it gently and pressing the tobacco down just right.  I can hear the sound of the pipe stem on his teeth and see the soft, swirling smoke around his head at the end of the day as he relaxed.

Dad was never too tired to listen to us kids as we talked to him.  He was patient and kind, and so wise.  Sometimes when I would climb up on his lap, he would read me a book.  Sometimes we would just snuggle.  And at other times, he would take my hands and check my nails.  If they were too long, he would ever so carefully trim each nail.  I sat very still, watching him take each of my fingers and cut the nail just right.  Then off I would hop and go on my way, not giving much thought to that simple deed that Dad performed. 

Until years later…..many years later.  The tables had turned, as they so often do, and I and my family had become the caregivers.  Dad was in his last month of life as the cancer he had fought for eight years was winning the battle.  I had been able to go home to help Jan and John as they cared for him and Mom.  It was a month of many cherished memories that fill my heart every day, especially during this Christmas season.  It was December when Dad died.  It was December and Christmas that he and Mom loved so much.

One day I rolled Dad in his wheelchair into the living room so that he could enjoy the pretty Christmas tree.  I helped him get onto the couch, his thin body so frail and weak.  Then I sat beside him and snuggled close to his bony side.  Words were few because it took too much energy for him to lift his head and talk.  But he still smiled….that gentle, kind smile that was his signature. 

As we sat there in the soft glow of the Christmas lights, I looked down at his fragile hands resting on his lap.  Hands that had worked hard, disciplined well, warmly hugged, and folded in prayer.  And I saw that his nails were so long.  How had we let them get in that shape?  So I looked in his tired face and I asked him if he would like me to trim his nails.  He slowly lifted his bowed head and gave me that smile as he said yes ever so softly. 

I got some clippers and a nail file, and I set to work on his nails.  I was afraid of hurting him so I worked very carefully, taking each finger and slowly trimming and filing.  He was very still and quiet as I worked.  Finally I was done.  He looked down at his hands and smiled again, and then slowly looked me in the eyes as he thanked me.  For days afterward, he talked about how good it felt to have his nails trimmed as he thanked me over and over. 

And just as when I was a little girl, the significance of that act didn’t hit me until later.  Dad showed me such love in the simple deed of trimming my nails when I was young.  Now it was my turn to show him the same love in the simple deed of doing the same for him in his weakened state.  His strength was mine when I needed him.  My strength was his when he, many years later, needed me.

And it was the love and guidance of Dad’s hands that led me to be there for him at the end of his life.  He raised me and my brother and sisters well.  He loved us deeply, worked hard for us, and led us to know and love the Lord. 

 
It seems like yesterday that I hopped off of his lap after he trimmed my nails, and ended up beside him on his couch trimming his nails beside the Christmas tree.  Now his and Mom’s memorial ornaments hang on my tree, and all I have are memories.  
 
But someday I’ll take his hand again in heaven, and Mom’s as well, and see them both strong and whole once more. 

 

The Pieces of a Beautiful Life

Two weeks ago, Gary and I were finishing the last leg of our drive to West Virginia as we traveled home for my mother’s funeral.  Has it just been barely over two weeks ago that she breathed her last breath?  So much has been packed into this short time that it seems like she left us much longer ago.  That’s how my mother lived her life, though.  Like my brother said at her funeral, Mom squeezed every bit of opportunity out of each day that she lived.  So much was packed into her life…..so much that will impact so many for eternity.

As Bob and Jan, and John and Jeanie, planned Mom’s funeral, they incorporated two very sweet and personal elements into the service.  Jeanie asked each of the grandchildren to write down their memories of their grandmother.  At her funeral, Jimmy read every word that had been written.  It was a very moving and sometimes humorous part of the service.  Then Jan asked each of us to bring our quilts that Mom had made us.  Each hand stitched quilt that we brought was hung over the railings at the front of the church, adding a beautiful background as we remembered our mother. 

 
 
Something really stood out to me as I listened to the grandchildren’s memories being read.  It’s the same thing that I noticed during her visitation at the funeral home the night before her funeral.  That night, we stood in line for nearly three hours as person after person hugged us and told us of what our mother had meant to them.  Most of their stories were fairly simple.  It wasn’t that Mom had done earth shattering acts of great note.  She wasn’t interviewed by the newspapers, seen on television, or given big awards for her acts of kindness. 

So what did people talk to us about as they shared my mother’s impact on their lives?  It was her service to them, her love, expressed in so many ways.  It was meals she cooked, her home she opened to so many, stockings she knitted, clothes she sewed, miniature roses she delivered in Cracker Barrel syrup bottles, boiled custard that she cooked because a friend loved it, sending out missionary prayer letters, making dozens of quilts for others, and so much more.

It was her great sense of humor….her ability to lighten any situation with an attitude of light heartedness that was often amazing.  It was her word fitly spoken to so many, especially to those who had messed up and made poor decisions.  She comforted without judging, and extended help where others might have looked the other way.  Story after story we have heard since Mom died.  What a balm to our hurting hearts!

The grandchildren’s memories were more of the same, on a more personal level.  Again, what is striking is that no one mentioned my mother’s education or her job.  Not that this isn’t important, because it certainly was a great accomplishment for her to have a Master’s degree and to have a supervisory position with the State Board of Education.  Yet with all of her educational goals that she met and with her very responsible job, my mother maintained our home and our family in an incredible way. 

It was, again, the seemingly small acts that all the grandchildren remembered the most.  Guess what was mentioned most often by her grandchildren?  It was the Cheerios that she kept in the coffee table drawer in the living room.  So many of them talked about that memory and of how much fun it was to go to their house, pull out that drawer as a little child, and eat as many Cheerios as they wanted.  Other memories were of the toys, the laughter, sitting on the front porch, all the play time in the yard, her cooking, gardening, sewing, and her unconditional love.  It was how she filled her home with joy and filled their lives with personal touches for each grandchild.

In her memories of her grandmother, Andrea wrote, “I remember how she patiently showed me how she pinned her fabric together in preparation to sew her gorgeous quilts by hand.”  As I sat in the church during mother’s funeral service, I looked at the quilts that we had hung on those railings.  Each one is full of hundreds of fabric pieces, placed together in way that makes a gorgeous design.  When you step back and look at the finished project, you see how each piece combines to make a perfectly beautiful work of art.

So it is with the life that Mom lived.  Each act of love that was remembered and many that have been forgotten, have all fit together to produce a beautiful life.  It’s the handiwork of God in our mother’s life that has blessed and profited so many of us over the 88 years that she lived.  Her life was a pattern that I want to follow.  A pattern of service and kindness that means more to people that any public acclaim ever will or could produce.

 

Like she so often sang:

          I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause.

          I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause.

          I’d rather have Jesus than world wide things

          I’d rather be true to His holy name.

 

I’ll be learning lessons from the design of my mother’s life for the rest of mine, I’m sure. 

 

 

Keeps Me Singing

It was probably over 55 years ago that a soloist with a beautiful voice went to sing in a revival service in the little town of Oakvale, West Virginia.  She sang the hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and then she sat down to listen to the sermon preached by Jimmie Jones.  Her heart was disturbed as she listened to the gospel being preached that night.  She thought of the song she had just sung, and of the words that came out of her mouth in such a perfect performance…..words that she knew she didn’t really mean.  For it was just that – a performance.  She sang beautifully, but she sang a lie.  She knew that she didn’t really know Jesus, and that she didn’t really mean it when she sang about wanting Jesus more than anything this world affords. 
 

This woman was my mother, and that night changed her life and the life of our family.  She went home and urged my dad to go with her to listen to Jimmie Jones preach.  Mom didn’t know that my dad had already trusted Christ as his Savior.  It wasn’t long before my mother made the same decision.  She bowed her head and confessed her sin, and asked Jesus to be Lord of her life.  God changed my parents tremendously.  They raised their five children to know and serve the Lord, and they left us a spiritual heritage that has more value than anything this world affords.  And “I’d Rather Have Jesus” became my mother’s signature song…..one we heard her sing many, many times over the years.  One she sang with honesty for the rest of her life because of the work that God had done in her heart.

Last week we said goodbye to my mother for the final time on this earth.  We had really lost her a long time ago to the horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s.  She no longer had her memories, her personality, or any of her other faculties.  But even Alzheimer’s cannot take the Lord away.  He has promised to always be with us, and He always keeps His promises.  We saw evidences of His presence with Mom as she struggled in various ways.  What sweet comfort it brought to know that deep in her heart and her mind, God was ministering to her in ways that we could not. 

Two weeks ago, on the day before the call went out to family that mother was dying, we saw a profound picture of God’s grace in her little body and in her heart.  Jan and her daughter, Bethany, had gone to spend some time with Mom in the care home where she lived.  Mom was sitting in the commons area, her head down and her eyes closed, unresponsive to the voices and the noises around her.  Suddenly, on the television that was playing, a man started singing “Amazing Grace.”  Bethany looked down at her grandmother and saw that her lips were moving.  Surprised at this, she and Jan leaned down and put their ears to Mom’s moving lips.  Here is what they heard coming from my unresponsive mother:

          Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

          Sweetest Name I know.

          Fills my every longing,

          Keeps me singing as I go.

My mother was singing!  Jan and Bethany wouldn’t have believed it had they not heard it for themselves.  She was clearly singing this beautiful old hymn.  She was singing about Jesus, whom she was soon to meet.  God’s prompting, God’s presence, was there with Mom in that room.  Jan and Bethany joined her in singing, and then Bethany said, “I love you.”  Mom clearly said, “I love you” to Bethany, her eyes still closed.  Then Jan said, “I love you, Mom.”  And Mom said, “I love you” to Jan as well. 

Those were the last words that my mother spoke.  The next day the family got the call that she was dying, and on Monday, May 4, my mother met Jesus.  Jesus, the sweetest name she knew.  Jesus, who filled her every longing.  Jesus, who kept her “singing as I go.”  Singing as she got ready to go to heaven. 

Like my brother, John, said at her funeral…..how appropriate that Mom’s walk with the Lord began with a song many years ago.  And her life with the Lord ended with a song…..a song that surprised us all, but was such a gift of grace and hope from God. 

A gift and an example that we will always, always cherish. 

 

In The Blink of An Eye

I’m thinking of my dad today for some very special reasons.  It’s been 6 ½ years since he went to heaven after fighting cancer for 8 years.  Dad was the one of the godliest men I have ever known.  He was so kind, selfless, and loving.  He was firm in his faith, never wavering through all the ups and downs of life, including his two bouts with cancer which finally took his life.  Yet despite his strong faith and his deep trust in the Lord, Dad seemed to have a great fear of death. 

None of us looks forward to dying, so on many levels we could understand his dread.  As he weakened and the end was coming nearer, he still seemed to struggle more and more with his uncertainties.  Finally one evening my brother John spent some time alone with Dad, talking to Dad about what was on his heart.  It was during this conversation that John was able to gently lead Dad to really express his concerns about dying.  One of Dad’s biggest issues was that he wondered what he would say to Jesus when he first saw Him.  We all just smiled and shook our heads when we heard that.  There he was again, not worried about his own pain but instead concerned about what he would say to his Lord.  And how like Dad that was!  He was always the ultimate planner and organizer, so for him to face this uncertain encounter with no plan or idea of what it would be like was very hard for him to handle.  Plus it very much showed his humility as he felt completely unworthy to stand before Jesus. 

Something else that was heavy on my Dad’s heart was the fact that he would be leaving my mother.  They had been inseparable during the 22 years of retirement they had enjoyed together.  Then when dad was put in a hospital bed, Mom slept in their bed right beside him and they held hands through the rails.  Dad knew that Mom was really showing the signs of Alzheimer’s in ways that we hadn’t seen.  He kept trying to find ways to tell us about it without Mom hearing him because he was so worried about what she would do when he was gone, and he wouldn’t be there to help her.  Part of his letting go was hearing our words of assurance that Mom would be cared for and that he didn’t need to worry about her.

But it wasn’t just that Dad was burdened about leaving Mom alone.  It was also that he was very concerned, almost fearful, of him being without her in heaven.  He was so close to her, so dependent on her in many ways, that the thought of being without her……even in heaven…..was nearly unbearable to him.  So on the night that John talked to Dad, he told Dad to remember that God said a thousand years to Him is but a day.  John said, “Dad, I really believe that when you go to heaven it’s going to be like you blink a couple times and then Mom will be right there with you.”

I don’t know that anything comforted Dad more than those words and that thought.  Later that night, as Mom and I sat with him in their family room, he very softly and slowly shared that thought with us…..and he sweetly smiled as he said it.  His soft, gentle smile….full of the hope that the separation from his Beth wouldn’t be so long after all.  We all know it was that night when Dad felt released to go on to heaven.  He knew that everything would be all right, and that Mom would join him in the blink of an eye.  Several days later he left this earth for heaven.

I’m thinking of my Dad today, and definitely my mom, for another very special reason.  Today my mother also left this earth for heaven.  She and Dad are finally together, whole and healthy at last!  I can’t imagine the joy they’re both experiencing right now to be with Jesus, and to be together for eternity.  Jan told me that Mom opened her eyes, eyes that had been shut for days.  It was as if she saw something.  Then she closed her mouth, closed her eyes, and was gone.  Did she see heaven?  Did she see Dad, grinning from ear to ear?  Did she see her Savior?  What precious and awesome thoughts those are!   

So while we cry at having to say goodbye to our last parent, we can’t help but smile and be so happy for her and for Dad.  Oh my goodness, I would love to have seen that reunion!  Someday we’ll join them there, and we’ll have so much joy and so much fun.  But until then, while we will sometimes weep and we will often miss them both, we can smile at God’s sweet goodness and rejoice over the certain hope we have of life together in heaven.  
 

Hey Mom, you and Dad have a great time up there! 

When we all get there, I do hope the Lord lets us sing “Oh, It Rained, Rained, Rained” again, just to torment dad. 

We’ll all see you in a couple blinks of an eye.    

When the Unexpected Becomes Reality

 

I was at my neighbor’s house last Thursday morning as her movers were loading all of her belongings that she was moving to her new assisted living home.  I had run back over to our house to get Aaron and deliver him to meet his day group.  That’s when I got the text from Gary…..as I got Aaron off his computer, let Jackson out to do his business, and quickly checked to see if Aaron had taken his pills.  Gary’s text said, “I’m OK.  Small plane crashed on our building.”

 

What?!  I looked at the picture he sent, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t hit home with me even then.  I had no idea of how tragic and awful it really was.  But later, as we got Nora moved into her apartment, our other neighbor hooked up her television and turned on the local channel.  There was live coverage for the rest of the day……and I was so thankful that Gary had taken the time to text earlier to let me, Andrea, and Andrew know that he was safe.

 

Four people were killed, we found out as the day wore on……the pilot, and three people inside a simulator where the plane had crashed.  I couldn’t imagine the fear I would have experienced if I had not known that Gary was safe from the beginning.  My heart goes out to the families of those who died.  Who would ever imagine that you would go to work one day in Wichita and have your building hit by a plane?   Who would ever imagine getting that horrible visit from a chaplain bearing that terrible news?  And I knew it could easily have been me that received that news…..me that was left without a husband…..my kids left without their dad.

 

We don’t know, do we, what a day will hold.  A couple days before the plane crash, I was nearly involved in a serious car accident…..but it didn’t happen.  Gary could have been killed on Thursday in the FlightSafety building……but it didn’t happen.  What if it HAD happened, though?

 

Like it happened with Mary…..a mom I know who is in her early 30’s.  Less than two weeks ago, she was leaving a movie theater with her four young children, one a two month old, and she had a major stroke.

 

Like it happened with our good friends, David and Jennifer, the day after the plane crash.  David’s dad was scheduled to come home after routine pacemaker surgery, but instead that morning he suddenly died……without warning…..totally unexpected.

 

Like it happened that same day with other good friends whose daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were involved in a serious front end collision on their way to spend the weekend with a friend.  They survived, thank the Lord.

 

What do we do when the unthinkable DOES happen?  What do we do when the unexpected becomes our reality?

 

When we feel like we’ve been hit in the gut and we can’t breathe, the only thing to do is fall back into the arms of God.  How do we do THAT?  By making a conscious decision to trust Him, and to remember Who He is and what He has promised us.  Alec Motyer says, “When the trial comes that prompts the unbelieving ‘Why?’ we must rather drill our minds to hear the call for faith, to recall the Lord’s promises, and cast ourselves utterly onto the reliable rock of His Word.”

 

A couple days after the plane crash, a friend called me.  She was so thankful that Gary wasn’t killed or injured.  She made the comment that we all often hear…..”God is so good.”  And I have to ask myself…..if Gary had been killed or badly injured, could I still say, “God is so good?”  I pray that I could and that I would still declare the goodness of God no matter my personal outcomes, for God’s goodness doesn’t change because He might allow me to go through some tough times.  Paul told Timothy that God remains faithful, and I hope that through my pain and grief I would be able to say and believe the same.

 

This is why it’s so important to learn who God is now……to know his attributes BEFORE the traumas hit.  Our Wichita first responders had just participated in a mock plane crash drill a month before the plane hit FlightSafety.  This drill helped them be better prepared for the real thing.  Likewise, I know that I need to daily trust God in the many events of my life and to learn His character, so when the really hard times come I am better prepared to draw on what I have already learned about God.

 

“How blessed are all who take refuge in Him,” David said in the Psalms.

 

Not spared…..but blessed and held.