Three years ago today, my cousin, Merlin Yoder had a terrible farming accident and passed away two days later. That October was a terrible time for me, and some days I didn’t know if I would ever be happy again. In Daniel’s family, we had a suicide early in the month, then my uncle, Vernon Zehr, passed away mid month, and then a week later, Merlin had his accident.
Today is the ninth anniversary of Old Gertrude’s death, also the ninth anniversary of the death of Carolyn Swartzentruber, five year old daughter of friends, Harvey and Judith. I went to Old Gertrude’s grave today, as I often do when I have a class at Stockley Center, and the weather was wet, the sky so grey and the wind was whistling through the trees around that graveyard for indigents. I thought about my sister in law, Frieda, and about the journey we all must make some day, and about how much I love living, but how hard things are sometimes and how knowing Jesus doesn’t make the parting “easy.” I know that Jesus conquered Death, and that Death is to have lost its sting, but the crossing is still not easy and the unknowns are still so glaring. What we know about Heaven is so intriguingly wonderful. What we don’t know about the crossing is what we hate so much.
All this pondering made me go back to try to find something that I had written the morning that we got word that Merlin had crossed over, that he was “done with troubles and trials.” This post says a great deal about what I’m feeling now. I know from experience that we won’t always be this sad, and that it won’t always hurt this much. And I know that Clint and his family are not alone, and that the prayers and the love and the concern are helping to hold them steady. But it is hard. And time grows short.
Ah, dear friends. Please pray for us . . .
I was sitting in my chair, in the corner beside the fire on this chilly Monday morning. I kept trying to wrap my head around the ache in my heart. I just could not really believe that Merlin was gone. He was so vibrant, so healthy, so alive! The usual things have been said, and I believe, I believe! He IS more alive than he has ever been. He IS in the presence of the LORD, and he would never have wanted to stay in that broken body. I’m sure he has seen The Father, I’m sure he has seen his Dad — and mine. But it all seems so surreal.
I was working on a letter to my kids when the morning quiet was interrupted by the phone. It was Certain Man. His quiet strength and understanding have helped to hold me steady in this last week. Sometimes I see him watching me with a calculating look, sometimes worried.
“I don’t know if you can see it or not, Hon,” he said, “but the sunrise is spectacular this morning. Go look to see if you can see it.”
Almost four decades with this guy tells me to never ignore such information, and I got up and looked towards the east. “What do you see, Sweetheart?” I ask, looking at a gray horizon, and seeing nothing of significance.
“I just came across the bridge at the swamp,” he says, “and the sun is hanging over the swamp like a big ball of fire. You may not be able to see anything because of the trees, but it is simply gorgeous.”
I look and look, and don’t even see a glimmer of the fire. Just gray horizon with an area that is a bit brighter where the sun will probably appear after a while. I don’t doubt that he is seeing it — and that it is breath taking, but I just can’t see it. Yet.
“I’m sorry, Daniel, but it isn’t up far enough yet. It sounds wonderful, though.” We exchange a few more bits of conversation and then I am back into the morning routine with my ladies and laundry — busy stuff to keep my hands occupied while my heart weeps.
And then, fixing a cup of coffee, looking listlessly out the side window where the summer flowers escaped frost one more night, I keep thinking about the morning and the sunrise I couldn’t see. I keep thinking that there is something nagging at edge of my conscious thought. I keep thinking about Merlin and how they said he often would call one of his brothers in the early morning hours to “go riding.” He was an accomplished biker, and loved to cycle, too. I got to thinking about what he might tell us this morning if he could call back.
“Come. Ride with me! You can’t see it yet, but the Morning is glorious! The Son is like a ball of fire, and all the air is alive with His presence. You can’t see it yet, you can’t see it yet, you can’t see it yet . . .”
And the fact that I don’t see it yet — don’t begin to understand it yet, doesn’t change the fact that I believe it is for real, and that someday, The Son will come for all who look for him, and it won’t carry the grief of this day, but rather the promise of a Glorious reunion and an eternity without the pain of separation.
“Ah, Merlin! The ‘if only’s’ and the sadness of this day crowd out the the things my head wants to say. We will miss you, and you will always be thought of with good memories in the hearts of so many. May God grant healing to your family, and may this “seed sown in the mortal body” rise to everlasting life.”
(Lord Jesus, forgive my questioning heart, but WHY did it have to be him????)