Monday, December 22, 2008

Clinging to your promises

Right before church services started Saturday night, I was in the office working on some filing. Our pastor on call came in and told me one of our members had collapsed while playing basketball at the local rec center. They were having trouble reviving him.

I whispered a quick prayer, and continued filing while he made more phone calls. I could hear whispering in the background. Fifteen minutes later I stood at his office door, and with a blank, stunned look on his face, he said, "He died."

Tom was 52 years old, fit and trim, a runner. We attended Sunday School with Tom and his wife, Barb for ten years, before we moved to Saturday services. She's left behind, along with two grown children, his parents, and siblings, and an entire church who loved him. When you leave this earth at 52 years of age, you leave behind many. I've heard Tom pray in Sunday School, for others who were going through difficult things, or just prayers of praise. We have no doubt where Tom is. That's what we hold to, but it doesn't make it easy.

Last week my calendar didn't have a funeral visitation and service in it. The ground outside is covered with a dusting of white, and it's all of five degrees. Tomorrow, the day of the funeral, is set to be just as cold. It's too cold for a funeral.

I was thinking recently that our country spends 1/12th or more of it's time marketing this thing we call Christmas. If we weren't all busy shopping and fussing and preparing right now our economy would likely be in an even more dire situation. It seems every other commercial is encouraging us to buy someone a car, wrap it up in a big red bow, as our country tries to keep the auto industry from going under.

I'm not playing an Ebeneezer Scrooge, suggesting we cut out all the fuss over Jesus' birthday. I don't know about anyone else, but for me it's easy to get busy with the preparations and miss the point. To spend time planning what gifts to give, and miss the gift that has been given. To actually complain about all those gifts for each other, without pausing to acknowledge we're blessed if our shopping list is long. Just last week Don and I visited a friend, 93 years old, with no family left. I'm pretty sure he'd be thankful if there was anyone still around who shared memories with him of days gone by. Days when he still had his youth, his hair and vitality, and dignity, rather than sitting confined and confused in a wheelchair thanks to a hip broken in a fall last week. At 93 he likely won't ever fully recover, and the cookies we took him were nibbled on only out of politeness. All he really wanted was the company of anybody who still cared enough to visit him. I'm not at all sure he remembered us, and I don't think it mattered.

Clearing a calendar for a visitation and funeral, regardless of what day it is, certainly brings one back to what is truly, truly important. Supporting Tom's wife, Barb, and their family, honoring his life - it will take precedence over anything else we had planned. We know where Tom is right now - and we're thankful for that assurance. It's still hard to say goodbye when it feels too soon.

"Lord, wrap your arms around Barb and her family, around Tom's kids and parents, and all those who loved him. Give them strength to get through these next few days., when it's Christmas all around us, and it's far too cold to be standing at a gravesite. Remind them you came to earth and overcame death, you gave Tom and the rest of us who believe, life everlasting. That's something to cling to when life is almost too much to bear. Thank you for the reminder to slow down, and hold closer those on my shopping list this year. Thank you for the reminder to tell my husband and children and parents how thankful I am they're still here with me. Amen."


Jill said...

How heartbreaking. It is so hard to bury someone in the winter, when you look around at dead ground cover, barren trees and grey skies. Praying that tomorrow there will be a ray of sunshine peaking through and your friends will trust that Spring is coming and that the joy of Christmas will show up too.

Barb said...

It's so sad, Bev. Fifty-two is so young and I'm sure your whole congretation is in shock, especially for it to happen at this time of the year. Barb and his family are in my prayers.

Deidre said...

My goodness - 52? So young! I'm so sorry to hear that. This time of year does make it especially tough. Reminds me of what our Savior was born in this world to do - save a lost and hurting people. More and more I want Him to come quickly!

Jen said...

Last year a friend in our class buried his mother....on 12/24. Very hard. Scott (my hubby) buried his grandfather on Thanksgiving 7 years is hard to do this anytime of the year but more difficult during the holidays.
I will pray for this family for strength....good luck friend...this day will be a difficult one.

Gretchen said...

Lord Jesus...thru my tears, I pray.

Love on Barb and the rest of Tom's family and friends. Thank you for the promise of eternal life and that you're with us through the best of days and the unbearable of them. I have no more words.

I thank You in Your Holy Name. Amen.

Becky said...

I am so sorry for your loss and the loss for your whole church.

I do rejoice however, with you, that he is spending his first Christmas in Heaven. What a celebration he is having this year.

It's a tender time to lose anyone. I pray for a sweet time of celebration for all of you as you remember his life.

Paulette said...

I am so sorry about your friend and I will certainly be praying for his family thorough the holidays. Life is so short. I lost a dear friend as well at 52 of cancer and it is way to soon, and still way to fresh.
I am sorry for your loss Bev. May we indeed be reminded of the importance of people over things this season, I know I am.

Diane@Diane's Place said...

There's no such thing as a good day for a funeral, but I agree; Winter seems to be the worst time for one.

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Bev. As you say, Christmas is such a hard time to lose somebody. We buried my Daddy 4 years ago today and I still have some sad times around Christmas time, missing him so.

We never know when we'll be called home, so it's best to be ready and to always, always make sure our loved ones know we love them and appreciate them.

I love you, sweet Bev, and treasure your friendship.