It was almost midnight when I rounded the corner from Interstate 70 to Plain City-Georgesville Road. In the seat beside me, Daniel snored softly, exhausted from the intense day. When we received word of his step-mother’s passing, he thought that we could be on our way by noon or soon thereafter, but there were monumental things to accomplish, packing to do, calls to make, and when we finally got off around 3pm, I sank into the passenger seat and prayed for grace.
Daniel drove while fielding calls on his blue tooth, making funeral plans and discussing home arrangements. We had gorgeous weather, sunny and clear. I spoke with the nursing home to find out about Sue’s last moments, and found that she had been doing fairly well when she was checked on around 7:30. She had responded with a nod of her head when spoken to, and had even given a half smile. They said that she had shifted in her bed like she was a bit uncomfortable, but she was better than she had been in some of the past few days, and it seemed like she was at least on a plateau of some sort. When her breakfast tray was taken in to her an hour later, they found her gone.
I worked on the obituary while we drove, trying to find words that would capture the essence of the life of Sue Yutzy. Last week, when I was thinking of her in the nursing home, facing the passing without any of her children there, it really troubled me. But over the days since then, as we were made aware of all the ways that the local people cared for her, provided for her needs, and visited unceasingly, I was immensely comforted, and certain that it would all be okay. I had thought long and hard about her life and accomplishments and wondered just what she would say mattered most to her. It gave me great cause to consider, not only for her, but also for the life I am living.
We had a sweet time together, both of us a bit pensive and weary. The miles rolled themselves away, but there are so many of them! About an hour and a half from Plain City, Daniel was really beat. He pulled into a rest area and relinquished the wheel. I never really like to drive, but I had told him that I would drive if he got too tired. I had gotten a big Berry Flavored Tea from Wendy’s when we stopped for supper, so I was very awake.
“Just let me get a little rest,” he said, groggily. “I’ll be okay after a sleep.” I saw him limping as he walked around the car. His knee was bothering him more than usual and driving is never easy on him. He got into the passenger seat, and moved my precisely placed seat all around until it suited him. He winced a time or two, but finally got things situated. He tucked his pillow under his head and went right to sleep.
I’ve been having a problem with moving one of my misshapen front teeth over one of my misplaced bottom teeth over these last few weeks. A few times I even found the top one almost numb from the stress I’ve wreaked upon it. I’ve found that I can’t do this annoying habit if I sing. Yesterday was a really bad day for unthinkingly grinding these two teeth together, and when I took the wheel, I felt the familiar ache in my tooth, so I recalled some old songs and softly sang the miles away. From Zanesville, into the dark fields of Ohio, on to the lights of Columbus and then on the the dark plains of Madison County.
At the end of the ramp, I came to a stop, then pulled onto the familiar road that once led home. It is a three mile drive from Interstate 70 to the little house on the hill that once belonged to Daniel and I. I thought about the many, many times that I traversed this road, and how familiar it once was to me. It winds and dips and makes its narrow way in no predictable fashion, and the houses have changed on either side to the point that I hardly know where I am any longer. I felt an ache in my heart that has been absent for many a year as I looked at the dark houses and the winding road.
Daniel had stirred on the seat beside me, and he looked through sleepy eyes at the passing scenery. We passed “our” little house on the hill, and then began the seven mile trek to town. We passed the house where Uncle Paul and Aunt Martha live. Went past the house where Uncle Allen and Aunt Mary Leona lived when we first got married. I remembered the happy times spent in that house and the brave lady who taught me more about living with and loving a Yutzy Man than pretty much anyone else. There was a catch in my throat as the dark house slipped by. On through Amity, and past Gingway Products and the old Plank homestead, and on into the quiet town of Plain City. Past Leroy and Mary Troyer’s house on the edge of town, and on to West Avenue where we’ve turned left for almost forty years.
And then we came into the housing development where Daniel’s cousin, Valerie and her husband, Greg, live and where we have found a place to land whenever we have needed shelter in the last five years. I looked at Daniel and said, “I cannot wait to crawl into that great bed!” He laughed a bit ruefully and said, “Isn’t that the truth!” It was freezing cold, and we grabbed the most necessary things and made a dash for the comfort of the warm house. Valerie and Greg were sleeping but our bed was waiting, and we were soon safely there.
Today has been a whirlwind of activity. We started with a coat of ice over everything, and getting anywhere was precarious. We picked up Daniel’s sister, Lena, at the airport this morning, then went to the nursing home and cleaned out the room. Daniel’s sister, Rachel, and her husband, Ivan, arrived just about the time we got done, and we grabbed a quick lunch and then went to the Funeral Home for a planning session, and then went to the church for more planning with the ministers.
It is hard to believe this, but at this point every single one of the grandchildren plan to be here for the funeral.
Rachel’s seven (Mark, Philip, Jeremy, Anna Rose, Miriam, Aaron and Peter)
Joseph’s three (Jay, Joy, and Weston)
Our five (Christina, Deborah, Raph, Lem, and Rachel)
Ruth’s four (David, Katie, Bethany and Charity)
Only three of these are unmarried, and most of the spouses are coming, too. Some of the 51 great grands are coming, too, but not nearly all. It makes these days so rich and full of eager expectation. As we wait for our children and grandchildren to arrive, I am reminded of how our Heavenly Father must have been longing for Sue to come home on Thursday morning, and how preparation and planning could have been going on as they readied for her arrival.
It is a time of great rejoicing even though it is a time of good-bye.
And a time of remembering.
And a time of aching teeth and aching hearts.
It is a time of being grateful for family and friends who provide safe harbor.
Of holding on to some things and letting go of others.
Oh, Lord Jesus. Make our hearts so soft towards you that the things we hold on to and the things we let go are both unimportant beside the magnificence of the hope of Heaven and the promise of eternal life. And even while we count as unimportant the things we hold so dear, may we celebrate what is important, and that is that you’ve already paid the price and someday, we’ll be HOME.
Lord Jesus. How sweet that will be!