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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Heaven’s Gain, My Loss

Early Sunday morning, another great man in my life, my brother Roger, peacefully entered into the Presence of the Lord.

Last January, even as my husband, Jim, was given his diagnosis of incurable, untreatable, cancer, Roger was in intensive care in Indianapolis with pneumonia.  Testing revealed incurable, but treatable lung cancer.  Months of chemotherapy and antibiotic treatment followed.

In May, Roger and I enjoyed our first visit in ten years when I traveled to Indiana ― a beautiful time of sharing love and memories.  My heart ached as I tearfully hugged him good-bye, not knowing if I would ever see him again in this earthly life

By God’s grace, my other brother, David, and I spent Thanksgiving with Roger and his family.  It was to be our last earthly encounter.   I never dreamed that in just two short weeks Roger would be rejoicing with the Savior in Heaven, and we would be mourning our loss.

Roger and Jim were the two people who most impacted my life spiritually. Roger introduced me to my need for a Savior. Jim caused me to stretch my faith and to grow in my knowledge of God and in my personal walk with Him.  Both nurtured and watered my faith and made me a better person.  Both unfailingly demonstrated the unconditional love of Christ for me.

My story, “Confessions of a Mortician’s Daughter,” is my personal tribute to my brother Roger.  He opened the door to my receiving a gift that changed my life, both now and for eternity. http://storiesfromthevine.com/confessions-of-a-morticians-daughter/

Thank you, Roger, for loving me so much.  For protecting me.  For caring for me.  For faithfully calling me out of concern for my life and my needs. For your constant example of a man who loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and who put the needs of others above your own.  I will miss you terribly.

Your life has left its imprint on many. You not only were a loving brother, but you were a loving and committed husband, father, grandfather, and friend.   Even as you are rejoicing in your Eternal Home, your legacy of selfless and sacrificial love, commitment, and faithfulness lives on in our hearts.

“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but tablets of human hearts.”  2 Corinthians  3:2

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“And they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)

It was at this time last year that I became aware of the seriousness of Jim’s illness. “He looks like the life is ebbing out of him,” I thought as I watched him slowly walk to the bedroom to lie down, looking pale, tired, and weak. Quickly brushing aside those thoughts, I focused on scheduling doctor appointments for him.

Nevertheless, we went through the Christmas season with its traditions. We spent an afternoon at Disneyland exactly one year ago today, enjoying a beautiful choral Christmas concert there.  Noticeably weak, Jim managed to keep up the pace.

One week later Jim climbed the ladder to the attic and brought down the Christmas decorations.  Traditionally, we have put the tree lights on together. (I am all thumbs when it comes to hanging lights.) I knew Jim was in pain, but he characteristically did not complain as he lovingly and patiently attached each light to the tree’s branches.  This was his labor of love for me, sacrificially giving of himself for his bride, loving me just as Christ loves His Church and laid down His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

As Christmas neared, one day he entered the house after having been gone for awhile, frustrated over his failure to find a Christmas gift for me. I assured him that I was more than happy with the new study Bible (in Spanish) that we had ordered for me, and that the greatest gift was having him with me.

Christmas Eve came.  He encouraged me to attend the Christmas Eve service alone, as he did not have the energy to attend and still be able to preach the next morning.  Of course, I was worried.

The following day, Sunday, was Christmas Day. Jim preached a beautiful sermon.  It was to be his last.  On the way home he confessed that he had thought he was not going to be able to finish the sermon and then greet the people afterward, so great was his weakness and pain.

Our family celebrated together the next day. Jim could not assume his usual role of reading the Christmas story and joyfully distributing the family gifts from under the tree.  Not this year.  He sat in the recliner, pale, weak, and in pain, leaving in the middle of the festivities in order to lie down.  Not one of us in the family could have imagined that the following days would find Jim in the hospital, culminating in a diagnosis of incurable, untreatable cancer that was blocking his intestinal track. This would be his last Christmas with us.

I kept the tree up well into January. Upon returning home from the hospital each night, I sat in the stillness of the living room, the only lights in the room those that twinkled on the Christmas tree. It was hard for me to remove that tangible reminder of those last happy moments hanging the lights on the tree together– Jim’s sacrificial gift of love to me. I could almost feel his presence.

Jim is not with me this Christmas. In the midst of loss, life still goes on.  Tonight my son, Steve,  helped me put the lights on the tree.  Did I miss Jim?  Of course. . I spoke of him constantly while we worked.  “Dad did the lights like this,” I would tell Steve.

I have shed a few tears today. But mixed with the tears of sadness were tears of gratitude.  Thankful because I know I am not alone.  God is with me! He has shown me time and time again in the year since last Christmas that He is my Immanuel – my “God with me.”  In the good times and in the bad time.  In happy family holiday times, in lonely moments.  My Immanuel is with me –  today and every day!

Immanuel. God with us. this is the beauty of Christmas.

 

Questions to ponder:

Do you know this Emmanuel personally?

Can you think of a time when it was especially meaning to you to know that God is with you?

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