Tag Archives: Sorrow

Asparagus Thoughts on a Red Kitchen Kind of Day

It feels like it’s been raining a LOT in Delaware.  I’ve always loved rainy days, and (usually) I’m the one who is delighted when I look out and there are clouds and it’s cool enough to justify running the pellet stove one more day.

The asparagus has started to grow prolifically   I look at the shoots, growing so tall in the wet and spring and wonder, briefly, if there is asparagus in Heaven.  Nope, I’m pretty sure there isn’t.  Especially since you can’t have a crowd of more than two or three without great controversy concerning this vegetable.

I’ve loved asparagus for years, relishing the first picking, often picking it before it was really quite ready, and always taking one of the first pickings to My Sweet Mama.  She often “had a hankerin’ for a mess of asparagus” before there was enough in our sparse patch to take to her.  But the patch has grown over these last few years and we have plenty this year.  I’ve already given away a big bag to a neighbor, and plan to give some more.  There is a lot out there and a whole lot more coming.

I don’t quite understand what is wrong this year with my taste buds. I picked the first batch, cooked it up and scarcely tasted it.  It felt like it stuck in my throat, then lay in my stomach, heavy,  like a bite of bad food.  I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything wrong with it, and was gratified when Daniel and the rest of my household ate it up.  The next picking, The Offspringin’s grilled to go with an early spring cookout.  There wasn’t an abundance, and grilled asparagus has never tempted me, so I wasn’t a bit jealous when they ate that.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve picked it, washed it, snapped it, cooked it, and just haven’t wanted to eat it.

I’ve wondered about the phenomenon over the last several weeks, and felt this gnawing sadness at the back of my conscious thought.  The coming Mothers’ Day celebration has added to the knot in my throat and the catch in my throat.  And then a picture, found inadvertently this week, brought me face to face with the fact that the Mama I’ve had for every single Mother’s day for 62 years is gone.  And I cannot even walk into the place that she called home and find any resemblance of Alene Yoder there.  I knew that in my head, but somehow, stamped in bright read and changed windows and different flooring, was the proof that things have changed forever and my Mama is gone.

The kitchen when she cooked asparagus and a thousand other things with the touch that she learned from her Mama, has been decimated and remodeled to someone else’s taste.  And someone else, who has their own memories and opinions and ways of doing things, will soon be rattling around in my Mama’s house, making it their home.  And part of me hates it so much I feel like throwing up.

Mom's kitchen

I know that things have to change.  I know that it is probably easier for the house to be completely different if there is going to be different people in it.  What am I to expect?  That someone who isn’t my Sweet Mama would move into her house and leave it exactly the way she did, and do everything the way she did?  How would a clone of my mother really work out in my life and in my emotions?  Would it really be helpful?  I promise you!  NO!!!

And so, I give into the changes that have been made, knowing that it isn’t really up to me anyhow.  For me, there is no right, no real choice in this matter, except that I can choose to be happy, to be realistic, to embrace what is mine to remember and to love, to acknowledge that what is most tangible isn’t what is the most real.  And to remember happy times of laughter and love and good, good memories that cannot be changed by a sledge hammer and a paint brush.

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Mothers’ Day, 2015

And so, Mama, once again, I am so thankful for the Mama I had.  I knew that I was going to miss you, and I knew that it was going to be hard.  I’m often surprised at the things that bring a fresh stab of grief and make me pensive and quiet.  Today I remember a year ago when we had no way of knowing that a short 12 days later, a fall in your bedroom would set the course that would take you away from your sunny kitchen and from us.  

I knew I was going to miss you so much, Mama.  I just didn’t expect that missing you so much would cause asparagus to taste and smell like grief.

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The Train Goes Round and Round the Track, and Mama’s Canary Sings.

Whenever there is noise that covers the immediate area, Mama’s bird, Pretty Boy, turns on the trills and chops until it pulls my heart towards the memories of another room, sunny and comforting, with a familiar form in the recliner.  Mama is listening to that same canary, and there is a smile around her thin lips.

“I love to hear him sing,” she would say.  “He doesn’t sing so much, unless there’s some kind of noise, like water running or certain music.”

This week I needed to go out to Country Rest Home.  I parked in the front lot, facing the window where Sweet Mama spent her last days, took her last breaths, and from where her spirit took flight to Heaven.  I tried not to look at her house, tried not to think, but I knew, I knew that I was going to go over to the house that was first my parents’ home,  and where Sweet Mama lived for almost ten years alone.

I finished my errand at Country Rest, and sat in my car for a bit.  And then, when I was pretty sure that no one would follow me and that I would be alone in my journey, I parked my van in front of the familiar front porch and looked at the curtains and blinds in the windows and bushes and (now wintering) plants that look just about the same as they always have.  Except that there was no light inside.  Mama almost always had light.

I stopped at the mailbox and retrieved some mail, and then went in through the front door as I always did.  It smelled just like my Mama’s house.  Her smell was there.  I felt my heart quicken just a bit with the recognition of the sweet, identifiable scent of Alene Yoder’s house. I was home!

I came around the corner, into the living room and it was then that the import of her absence hit me full.  The house was empty.  From where I stood at the opening into the living room, there was a broad expanse, with almost nothing to break up the space.  All the way at the other end, a lone folding chair sat at one table space, and a hickory rocker was pulled up to another.  A small, rickety bookcase, that had served as her bedside table for as long as I can remember, was against a far wall, and two recliners were snuggled together inside the short wall to my right like Daddy and Mama were using them when they shared their nightly devotions together.  The silence was a roaring noise in my ears.  It felt like I should be able to call, “Hey, Mama!  I’m finally here!” the way I must have done a thousand times over the last ten years, and hear her respond from the next room, “I’m here, come on in!”

I began the trek across the big living room, into the dining room, my footsteps muted on the carpet in the deserted house.  And then I heard the sound of weeping.  A whimpering noise was coming from somewhere in my throat, spilling into the empty house, running rivers down my face and dripping off my wobbly chin.  The sound in my ears made me only cry harder, and I stood helpless against the onslaught of grief, suddenly fresh and raw and anything but reasonable and restrained.  I plodded into the deserted study, hovered at the door of her bedroom where she took her last, catastrophic tumble.  The floors were swept clean, and there was no vestige of my Mama there.  “Oh, Mama, Mama!  You are so gone!  I miss you so much.  I miss you so much!”  I stood where her recliner always sat and wrapped my arms around the empty space and brought them tight against myself as if I could somehow hug the place where she always was, but I came up with nothing.

It was probably in that moment that some things began to sink into my fur brain.  I realized that I was never again going to feel my Sweet Mama’s presence in that empty house.  I would have memories, and as long as the smell was there, and the shell of the house was largely unchanged, I would remember her, and think of her, and feel the familiarity of this place that held so many good times, but I wouldn’t be able to feel like she was there somewhere, lurking just around the corner.  And that was a big enough thought that I decided to not stay any longer.

I picked up the rickety little bookcase and thought I would take it home and see if Certain Man could sturdy it up and maybe it could be useful somewhere in the house.  And I got into my van and headed for Milford.  Home was waiting, and the afternoon was gray and chilly.  I came around the corner at 36 and 16 and considered stopping at Mama’s grave.  When all was quiet at Greenwood Mennonite Church and there were no cars in the parking lot, I pulled in and parked beside the brick steps going into the country cemetery, and walked over to the granite marker where we laid her body to rest.

I was crying again, and I traced the letters on the stone.  “Why???” I asked aloud.  “Why???”

And that was when I felt like I was held gently by my Heavenly Father.  “Are you asking why she went to where she is happy, healthy, and free?  Do you think she is worse off now than she was when she was with you here?”  I looked at the grass, almost totally grown back over the grave, and thought about Daddy’s body, now there for ten years, and thought about why the grief was so unmanageable on this January day. I thought about her there, in Heaven with Jesus and Daddy, with her parents and many, many friends.  I thought about what it was like up there, and wondered again just how it would be.

“There’s a city of light mid the stars we are told,
Where they know not a sorrow or care.
And the gates are of pearl and the streets are of gold
And the building exceedingly fair.”

The song rose unbidden in my heart and the next thing I knew, I was singing it in a shaky voice to the falling light.  The cemetery was quiet, and the notes were anything but beautiful, but I grew stronger as I plowed on.

“Let us pray for each other, not faint by the way,
In this sad world of sorrow and woe.
For that home is so bright
And is almost in sight,
And I trust in my heart, you’ll go there.

Heaven.  Our someday Home.  Her present Home.  I cannot begin to understand what was waiting for Mama that June night when she left this all behind and stepped into GLORY and LIGHT and PEACE and PRESENCE and ETERNAL LIFE.  But this I do know.  It wasn’t empty.  It wasn’t quiet.  It wasn’t full of any memories that made her weep.  Mama was Home, and I believe it somehow smelled and looked and felt familiar, but still so far beyond her wildest expectations that it’s unfathomable to us mortals.

I turned away.  Homefolk were going to soon be worried.  It was time I headed on out to Shady Acres where my life still is, and where the people I love still gather.  My tears were over for now.  There will be more, and there will be days when the grief feels fresh and raw and unmanageable.  I’ve come to know that it’s all part of the process.  I don’t like it, but I’m trying to make it my friend. There are valuable life lessons to be learned here, and I don’t want to miss them.

And so, tonight, for the process of letting go, for the part that empty houses and tears and gravestones fill in that process, and for the hope of Heaven and for Jesus, who made it all possible; for this and so much more:

My heart gives grateful praise.

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The Lows, The Highs.

This week has been a roller coaster for me.  Monday morning I was talking it over with Jesus, and telling Him how sad I felt.  And telling Him that I just wanted to undo the last fourteen months.  “I want Frieda back, whole and healthy and alive and HERE!  I want our church to not be burned.  I want Mama to not fall full on her face on a cold tile floor at our “borrowed” meeting place on a Sunday morning in February (a pivotal incident for embarrassment and infirmity in her life).  I don’t want to think about the health issues and infertility issues in my family that were exacerbated this year.   I don’t want Mama to fall in May and break her femur.  I don’t want her to have suffered those four weeks.  I don’t want her to have died.  I want her here, healthy and alive.  I don’t want Youngest Daughter, Rachel, to struggle to find a job for six months, with all sorts of reversals and setbacks and disappointments.  I don’t want Middle Daughter, Deborah, to be diagnosed with a genetic liver condition (http://www.alpha1.org/) that has given great cause for alarm.  I’m just so tired of everything! And I’m just so sad . . .”

And (Believe me!) there were a few other things in there that I “didn’t want” that can’t be said here.


Where do we go when life is too much for us?  How do we choose life and hope and peace when it seems like an exercise in futility?  What do we do when the people we love are hurting and struggling and doubting and failing? And what makes us think that it will ever be okay again?
Listen, dear friends!  Here is where I’ve chosen to focus:


Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19a

 

If there is anything that I’ve learned on this sojourn, it is that praise makes the darkest night navigable.  And while there may be all sorts of things that make me sad, I still need to choose that He does all things well, and that He is to be trusted.  It probably won’t ever all be “okay” again.  That’s what Heaven is for.

And if I can’t sink my “trembling soul” onto that immovable rock, then I’m pretty sure there’s no hope for this season of my life, this time, this place and my future mindsets.

The last few days have been better than that terrible Monday.  For every one of the “I wants” there have been blessings that I can choose to look at, be grateful for, and acknowledge God’s hand, working for our good.

I’m as convinced as ever that faith is the key to having a life focus that gives courage and hope.

It didn’t end at the Cross, and our Sunday’s coming!

My heart chooses grateful praise.

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Incredible!SweetCorn, Incredible Sadness

It was two of the kind of days that seldom come at the end of July.  Cool, breezy, and so nice for the jobs at hand.  We worked in the refreshing coolness on Friday, making short work of over 1200 ears of gorgeous Delaware Sweet Corn, named (appropriately) “Incredible!” by some foresightful agriculturalist.

“I don’t remember ever having this nice a day for doing corn,” I said repeatedly to my sometimes skeptical co-workers, members of my family that are suckers for this kind of punishment on an annual basis.  They would look thoughtful.  Some agreed and some did not.  But no one could dispute the fact that it was almost perfect..  We finished in good time and put things aside for the 750 ears that would be coming the next morning.

Saturday.  By 9:30, a familial crew descended upon the grounds of Shady Acres and we got those 750 ears done and all cleaned up by three o’clock.  It was, again, a wonderful day .  The weather was almost as wonderful as the day before, the company was good, and the camaraderie was so sweet. It felt really good to have the year’s supply of corn in the freezer.  Then everyone scattered — taking the freezer bags of corn home to their own freezers.

Certain  Man, who had been working on his sermon, came outside to do the final washing and put the pavilion and driveway back to order.  I carried the clean wash baskets, muck buckets, pans, knives and put them away.  The afternoon sunshine was dappling down through the shade in the side yard and the pavilion’s cement floor was clean and wet.
corn day clean up

There were loose ends in the house to round up, and there were several loads of laundry from the morning still hanging on the line, warm and dry from the long hours it had spent there.  I stirred around in my house, started a bleach load of laundry from the day’s gathering and loaded the dishwasher.  I put away the corn utensils, pots and pans and felt that deep, deep satisfaction of a good day’s work.  I still needed to retrieve my dry laundry and do some Saturday night straightening, but I kept landing on my chair and taking breaks.

A little before seven, the phone rang and it was Eldest Daughter.  “Mom, did you know that Lem and Jess are stopping on their way home from the beach?”

“I had texted him, Chris,” I said, “and asked if they were stopping.  I hadn’t heard back.  I decided they had just gone on home.  I might have missed something, though.  My phone was almost dead and I have it plugged in.  I may not have heard.”

“Well, he said that he told you guys that they were going to be there around eight.”

Certain Man picked up my phone from the phone booth where it was charging and said, “Oh, yes.  There is a message here.”  He read it.  “It says they are going to be here around eight.”

Around the phone receiver, I mouthed to him,”Tell them it will be fine!”  And then went back to Christina and learned that the Alexandria Yutzys were hoping for some burgers on the grill.  That was fine because there was still nothing decided upon for late Saturday Supper.  Eldest Daughter was making some zucchini bread, and we decided that she should bring that on down to the oven at Shady Acres to bake and add to the late night snack.

And so the happy evening passed.  Burgers and fresh tomatoes and lettuce and garden tea and other snacks pulled from the pantry mixed with the smell of baking zucchini bread and a pot of Dolcés Jamaican Me Crazy Coffee.  I looked at this small gathering and was grateful for the gifts of this day.  The conversation and laughter and stories and the smell of good coffee wrapped around me with the love of those gathered there and I counted blessings.

Then, in the middle of it all, the phone rang.  I was surprised to see the phone number of my sister in law, Polly Yoder, appear on the caller I.D., and even more surprised when I answered, and it was my brother, Mark, Jr. on the other end.

“Mary Ann!  How are you this evening?”  It was my brother’s voice, subdued but strong.

“I’m good!” I answered, feeling good to the core.  “How are you guys?”

It was Polly’s voice as well as Mark’s that answered.  “Well–”  “We aren’t so good–”  “We’re feeling kinda’ sad this evening.”  And I heard the tremble in one of the voices.

Bravely, one of them went on.  “We just left Jeremy and Cheryl’s.  They got the results of the testing for Jase.”  I felt my stomach tighten.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  “. . . and Jase is positive for SMA.”

SMA.  Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  Our family already knew enough about this terrible genetic disorder. Jeremy and Cheryl’s sixteen month old daughter had the same disorder and, after brightening our lives for what seemed but a moment, flew home to Heaven one April night in 2014.  It is difficult to put into words how the days that marked her short live affected us all.  She had a smile that could light up a whole room, a deep affinity for her family that was a result of being known and loved and cherished and tenderly cared for all the days of her life.  Her short life spoke joy and value and God to us all.  It was the hardest of times.  But the valley was ablaze with GRACE and GLORY and HOPE.

Jeremy and Cheryl, their two sons, Max and Boaz, and Mark, Jr. and Polly and the rest of their family finished strong.  Their Anchor did not fail them.  And when we heard that there was another baby on the way, we all prayed for a healthy child.  It seemed like it would be the right reward for their faith and for their faithfulness in the storm that would have destroyed so many others. God gives good gifts to his children, doesn’t He?  He’s promised the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him, and delighting themselves in God has been the heart cry of this family.  I cannot erase the sounds of Cheryl’s voice, lifted in unmitigated praise and trustful relinquishment in a small church in Baltimore where we gathered to celebrate Ariel’s life.  There was a small white casket, and this brave young mother exalted a God who could do no wrong, who was worthy of our praise, even when we couldn’t understand.  Surely God would reward/honor that kind of faith.

He should, shouldn’t He?

He would, wouldn’t he?

Jase Marius was born exactly a month after his great grandmother went to Heaven.  July 16, 2015.  9 pounds, 9+ ounces. Beautiful. So incredibly beautiful.  I looked at his pictures, and searched for any clue of SMA.  I prayed that the testing, done once he was born, would come back totally clear.  I thought of all the things that would indicate it was okay. The truth is, SMA isn’t immediately evident, and all the looking to see signs that all is well in the first days of life won’t really reveal anything.  But I really thought it would be.  I thought it had to be.

But now, I couldn’t escape this report, these results.

Mark and Polly and I talked for a little bit.  The conversation around the table had stopped when my side of the conversation had indicated something was terribly wrong.

“Did somebody die?” Hissed Christina anxiously.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very anxious Charis hovering at my elbow, listening intently.  I shook my head, and tried to reassure them, but they knew that there was some sort of bad news.  My heart ached for Mark and Polly and their family.  My heart ached for this old world where the very state of being human begs for Redemption.  These disorders of genetic nature happen because we are a part of a world where things can go so wrong — Sometimes because of our sin, or because of our wrong choices, but often because we are mortals and subject to the laws and accidents of this natural world.

And now I sat, the reality of what this little guy and his family were facing, crashing over my heart while the tears streamed down my face.  But we have a six year old granddaughter.  She was obviously troubled by my distress.  She sidled up to me and threw her arms around my neck.  I took her on my lap and felt the warmth of her healthy body.

“Grammy — what will happen to the baby?”

“I don’t know, Charis, but I do know this, that his family will love him, and Jesus loves him and He can heal Jase.”  Her eyes were earnestly seeking mine.  “But Charis, if he does go to Heaven, just think about it!  Grandma Yoder will be waiting right there to just snatch him right up and hold him and squeeze him.  And that will be wonderful, too.”  I fought back the catch in my throat as I tried to think of hopeful words for her.

And so the evening passed.  Lem and Jess left for Alexandria, Charis went home with her Daddy and Mommy.  Certain Man went to bed so he could get up and finish his sermon.  I folded laundry, stirred about and thought and thought and thought.  And cried.  Deborah came home from Shakespeare in the Park and helped me clean the kitchen and we talked about life-important things.  Mostly about trusting God when things aren’t the way we want them to be.  About letting Him be God when it feels like everything is out of control.  About knowing that He is ruling and reigning and controlling, even when we hate what is going on.

After midnight, I climbed the steps to bed, took my shower, washed my hair, and finally slept.  The morning was here before I was ready.  I came downstairs to organize the morning, and it felt like a cloud was covering everything I did.  I stood at the counter, methodically counting meds and getting ready to get Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda up and ready for the day.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!” I was going over the same row for the umpteenth time. “This looks so big, so hard, so overwhelming.”  The tears kept falling and I felt so incredibly sad.  “I thought your promise was that this child would be okay!”  Somehow the words settled into my anxious heart.  “Okay???  Are you saying he isn’t ‘okay?'”  “I know, but we asked for health!  And you could have made it that Jase was born without SMA!”  Then the words from Jeremiah 1:5 kept coming insistently to my head.  They were so strong that I finally went and looked them up.  I heard what God was saying to Jeremiah and I knew that it was true for this much prayed for, much loved, much anticipated Jase Marius.

“Before I formed (Jase) in the womb, I knew (him). Before he was born, I set him apart for my holy purpose.”  Jeremiah 1:5 GW.  God’s purpose for Jeremiah was that he was to be a prophet.  What is God’s purpose for Jase?  I don’t know.  But I do know that God has a purpose for Jase.  And He will show us what that is.

The other verse that was cross referenced from this verse was this one: “I saw (Jase) before (he) was born. Every day of (his) life was recorded in (my) book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16 NLT

God’s eyes are on this family for good.  He is neither surprised nor dismayed; neither stymied nor baffled.  This is hard.  We don’t understand. But He is God!  He has a plan.  He can be trusted. He is worthy of our praise.

And so, today, this heavy heart will choose to give HIM (grateful) praise.

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Hearing Frieda’s Hope

The phone is ringing in my Sweet Mama’s sunny kitchen. She is in her chair, and I am sitting at her table, working on her weekly med planner. It is an ordinary Tuesday and the day is sweet with quiet conversation and peaceful camaraderie. I pick up the call for Mama.

“Hello, Yutzys – I mean, Yoders.”

“Oh, Mary Ann!  You’re there at Mom’s?”

The voice at the other end is lilting and familiar.

“Yep, it’s Tuesday, and I’m here!” I puzzle a bit over the voice, but suddenly realize that it belongs to my sister in law, Frieda. She was hospitalized over the weekend with symptoms that were troubling. She has been fighting an increasingly challenging battle with an especially insidious form of breast cancer that has metastasized.

“Is Mom there?” The voice is joyous, strong. Maybe there is good news here.

I hand the receiver over to Mama, and note with satisfaction that it is on speaker phone. I watch as she cradles the phone to her ear, her face a glad light, and she greets her daughter in law with a note of anticipation in her voice. And then.

“Mom,” says this voice, carrying across the kitchen, every word hanging in the air, held by an incredible thread of joy, “I’m calling to tell you that the tests are all back and I’m going to get to go to Heaven and it looks like it’s going to be really soon.”

My Sweet Mama’s face crumbles into a mask of sorrow. Across the room, I sit frozen as the import of the words settle into my soul with a bleak sorrow that begs to be repudiated. How can this be? My sister in law, part of our family’s fabric for almost fifty years, a beloved wife, dedicated mother and wonderful Mimi to her grandchildren, cannot be leaving us. What will they do? What will we do? The tears begin to slide down my face.

But Frieda isn’t about to let the news lie with one or two sentences. She speaks comfort and peace and hope and joy into the room while Mama and I weep. “Just think of it,” she carols. “I’m going to be in HEAVEN. With Jesus! I’ve lived my life for this! I’m going to this beautiful place and it’s going to be so good! And think of all the people I will get to see! I will meet a grandmother that I never knew here. I’ll see my grandmother that was one of the Godliest, most wonderful woman that I have ever known. I loved her so much! I’ll see Dad and all those Yoder boys that have gone on before! It’s going to be wonderful! And Janice Root! She’s going to be there!”

That gave me pause to consider a bit as I thought of Frieda walking into Heaven. I thought about Janice, there in the presence of the Lord for these long years (for us earth people) and I thought about her great laugh, ringing down the corridors of Heaven and could almost hear her saying, “Frieda! You here already??? Well, welcome home!!!” There could be some joy in that thought . . .

The conversation took many turns, but there was never anything but eager anticipation on Frieda’s part. She discussed the medical issues with the same detachment she might have used for book review. “They found cancer cells in my spinal fluid,” she said nonchalantly. “The cancer has spread to the lining between my brain and my skull. The doctor says that there is nothing more they can do. They say that I will just sleep more and more (and I’m already just sleeping and sleeping) and that I will slip into a coma and then I will go to Heaven! She says that I don’t have months, just weeks. Isn’t it so exciting?” I try to catch her enthusiasm but it just. Isn’t. there.

Oh, Frieda! Wake me up and tell me this is all a bad dream. Tell me that you beat the terrible odds and are going to get better. Tell me that Daniel and I will have a chance to bring Mama to South Carolina and visit you and Clint in your lovely home beside the lake, that we will pick up pecans and watch the season play its changing tunes in the woods and fields. Tell me that you will be back to caring for your patients in your home health care job and that you will rake the leaves and pull the weeds and run off frequently to see those grandbabies of yours. Tell me that you will keep on loving Clint and praying for your children and their spouses and grandkids. Tell me that your inimitable honesty in counsel to them and to us all will go on for years until you are old and gray and you do it from an old hickory rocking chair. Tell me that this is all a big mistake and we really do have another twenty or thirty years. Tell me!!! I beg of you. Tell me!!!

But these are not the words that she has for us. She knows whom she has believed. She knows where she is going. She doesn’t want to prolong it or inconvenience her family. The plans are in place. She is unafraid. She is at peace. She is unfaltering.

Oh, Lord Jesus! How very much we need you now. Shine your Glory into our hearts though her example. We are so sad.

Frieda says to Mama, “Is there anything you want me to tell anyone up there? I can take messages to Heaven for you.” Oh, my! What a precious thought!

Mama is startled, then a torrent of words for the love of her life that she misses every single day. “Tell Daddy that I love him, that we miss him. Tell him I’ll see him soon!”

“I’ll do that,” says this brave lady. “And I know that you would have preferred to hear this from Clint, but he just felt like he couldn’t talk. Maybe he could talk now.” Mama is crying so hard she can barely talk and when Clint comes on the line, his voice chokes and there are no words. It is so hard to talk to a loving parent when our worlds are upside down and bleeding out. I take the phone from Mama and speak what seems to me to be some babbling nonsense to my oldest brother. He regains his composure and is able to talk, and there is much there that is rich and comforting.

“I feel like the Lord has impressed several things on my heart,” he says quietly. “One is, ‘what kind of husband is the best kind of husband for Frieda right now?’ And I intend to be that kind of husband. This is going to be hard. And I’m going to have some really hard times. I’ve already had some really bad times. But, you know, there were times when we lived in Delaware and Frieda would go off alone to visit Shana or Chip and she’d be gone for quite a long time, but I was okay. She would always come back eventually and we’d go back to our usual routines. And now Frieda is going on another journey alone. And she won’t be coming back, but I’ll be going to her. I really don’t know how soon I will see her again, but it may not be all that long. It’s going to be hard. But I know that God will be with me and I know it’s not forever.” His voice is calm, trusting. My tears won’t stop.

“God has been so good to us,” he says. “We’ve enjoyed a tranquil life. Even with Dad going, and that was hard, but even with that, we’ve been so blessed and the lines have fallen to us in such pleasant places. We’ve not seen a lot of tragedy and hard times.”

There was so much more said – and so much left unsaid because there are no words for much of this. The conversations ended with promises to pray, affirmations of love and missions to accomplish.

How can we begin to go back to ordinary after such a brush with the eternal? I couldn’t think, could scarcely remember what the usual tasks were. But I kept thinking about the things that Frieda had said, and how important it was to get on with the living and believing and even being glad for her as she looks forward to Heaven without a flinch, without fear, without regret. She wants us to rejoice. She does not want anything to distract from The Glory of her Homegoing.

I am in awe of her, in awe of my brother, whose responses are nothing but illustrations of God’s incredible Grace. In an almost unbelievable demonstration of God’s intentional love for us individually, something happened several days before this diagnosis was given that reminded me of how up close and personal our God is. A song was requested at our annual church retreat on Sunday morning. Aunt Dottie had asked Dave and Ilva to sing, “Day by day, and with each passing moment . . .” as their special music. Dave had prefaced their singing by dedicating the song to Clint and Frieda, requesting prayer and testifying to the grace that they have found. The words of the song floated through the Crowder Center at the old Denton Wesleyan Camp moving many of us to tears. At about the very same time that Dave and Ilva were singing that song, Clint was leaving church after having taught Sunday School. He was weighed down by the sadness and he turned on the Back to the Bible broadcast on the radio. Immediately across the airwaves, came the very same song.

“That song is for me! It’s right where I am right now,” he thought and went home, looked it up and got a link ready to send to our family google group – not knowing what had happened in the gathering at Denton, MD, that morning.

(Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNVCcph6cnI&list=RDlNVCcph6cnI)

I listen to the words of this old hymn and am comforted and encouraged and even hopeful. We wish that she wouldn’t need to go. Wish for more time, wish for opportunities to say “I surely do love you!” a whole lot more than we’ve said it in the past. But it isn’t a time for wishing. She doesn’t want us to wallow. She wants us to think about going to Heaven as the wonderful adventure we all have before us, looking to Jesus as the Author and Finisher! of our faith.

I pray that we can follow this shining example. There is so much to look forward to. There is JOY set before us.  We will remember.

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Golden Autumn Days and Besetting Sorrow

For the last ten days, I’ve been posting signs of Autumn over there on Facebook.  I’ve searched for the beauty and even the “not so beautiful” things that remind me that summer is waning, and my favorite season has truly begun.

Today was one of those perfect autumn days.  The weather was gorgeous.  The day was sweet.  Certain Man was home today because the big old lard buckets that are our chickens are going out.  How glad we both are for a bit of a break.  It looks like this layover is going to be a “nice” one.  The company is saying that it will be two weeks, but encompassing three weekends.  Today starts our church retreat at Denton, Maryland, and even though we don’t stay over at night because of our ladies, it is nice to not have to worry about chicken house alarms and fans and feeders and lights and ventilation and floods.

The day went well.  I had a big cheesy noodle bake to make for lunch on Sunday at retreat.  That came together well, and it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I got it into the fridge this afternoon all ready for the oven.  I checked the list of other things that I was to take and sighed with relief to realize that everything else was already there, sent with friend Ruby on Wednesday.

So many happy things to enjoy.  The blue jays are busy, the flowers still blooming, the air is cool and there are apples on the counter, crisp and sweet.  The crickets chirping don’t even much annoy me unless I am trying to sleep.

So.  Why the besetting sorrow?

Because six hundred miles away a story is being written of love and faithfulness and faith and an insidious disease and we don’t know how it will turn out.  My brave sister in law says she knows how it will be.  OKAY.  Because she knows Whom she has believed.  She trust her Heavenly Father to do what is best.  She is unafraid.  My Oldest Brother is pensive, even while he holds fast to the promises that remind us of a God who is THERE and who is neither surprised or stymied by the events of these last two years. My heart aches for him and their children and grandchildren and in-laws.

I sometimes think that Clinton has loved Frieda since the day he laid eyes on her.  That would have been back in about 1963.  They’ve loved each other a very long time.  That love and the faith that has marked their lives with adventure and grace and glory holds them steady in these uncertain days.  They cling to a God who has proven that He is to be trusted.  And we pray.  And pray.  And pray.

But on this glorious autumn day, the tears want to spill.  There is so much to ponder.  The sorrow is besetting.

“Oh, Lord Jesus.  There are no words to say what is in our hearts . . .”

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