“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 The Message
How many more tears are there to cry? I have debated about writing a post today because I don’t want to exploit the sadness of others or dwell on my own sadness but writing is cathartic for me and sometimes it is just what I need to do. I have spent some time searching the scriptures today for words of comfort that I can pass along and words that I, myself, can take to heart and the scripture above is one that spoke to me. It hit home with me because in spite of my grief and sadness it reminds me that there is a lot to be happy about and that I need to share in my times of grief with others in whatever manner I can.
As you might have read in the recent posts my sadness revolves around the recent deaths of significant people in my life. On December 7th Rev. Reta Steck passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. Reta was a role model and friend and I was blessed to have been a very small part of her compassionate and caring life. I met Reta when she was the Duke Intern at my home church –Fair View UMC in Mt. Mourne. On December 21st, Betty Keeter, a member of Epworth UMC in Concord and a woman who was the posterchild of grace passed away after her own battle with cancer. Betty was known for many things but one was her ability to write poems. She had the knack to knock out the perfect poem for every occasion and I can say that I was the proud recipient of a Betty Keeter poem. Not something that I earned or expected but something that she did from the big heart that she had. She was a blessing. On January 2nd, another dear Epworth friend, Jimmy Stewart, passed away. Jimmy was one of those men that I loved from the first meeting. I have always had some connection with the “older” gentlemen and even though the gap is lessening some as I age—Jimmy was one of my favorites. I have to admit it! He had a way about him that just pulled you in and he was always there with a kind word and that much needed hug. Yesterday, January 4th, when I landed in Mason City upon returning from 2 weeks of family and fun, I learned of the death of Henry Keeter—-Betty’s husband of 62 years. My heart broke and the tears flowed as I deplaned. There was only one Henry. He was quick to tell you if you looked good and had that way of pointing the finger and shaking it at you—-now you who knew Henry know what I am talking about!!!! One year at Christmas he came into my office and gave me a box of chocolate covered cherries (which I LOVE, by the way) and he had no idea what that meant to me! Henry had his health issues but he kept on going—kind of like the Energizer Bunny at times. He, like Jimmy, was an Epworth Hot Dog man and drove deliveries for many years. He was also the King of Ticket Sales for any Epworth dinner event that came around. No one could beat Henry in that department~he knew people and he knew how to move those tickets!!!! I imagine that the percentage of money generated by Henry over the years for Epworth was more than anyone would be able to believe!
So today I decided to take the day to remember these saints, to rejoice in my memories of my time with them, and to praise God that we all have the hope of life eternal. They are all rid of the earthly bodies that sometimes failed them. They are singing loudly and in the incredible presence of our Lord. They must be so happy to be there. And while my human heart is so very sad and feels so empty today I take comfort in that fact. And that is what it is. It is not a fairy tale. It is not an urban legend. I know and I believe with all of my heart that we serve a God who sees us in our hour of sadness and will meet us there. It is okay to grieve. It is something that needs to be done. It takes awhile to work through the process and my prayer today is for the Epworth family—–they have suffered 3 really difficult losses in a very short time. These people were people who touched lives and who made a difference in the world by just being there. God hears our prayers, God sees our tears and knows our sadness. And in time…..however long it may take……God will continue to be with each of us as we continue our earthly journey without our friends. To God be the Glory. I will miss you, Reta, Betty, Jimmy and Henry.