Late May ushered in a new season for us as a family. We were about our spring activities: yard work, taking out our summer clothes, Leesie finishing up her school semester. Then the unexpected happened--my father-in-law Tom suffered a massive heart attack, then passed away a week later.
Wow. People go through this kind of thing everywhere, but it's stunning when it happens in your own family. We had no warning with Tom; we'd been in church together that morning, everything perfectly normal, and that night he was in ICU in a coma. He never awoke to say goodbye to his family.
These ensuing weeks have been filled with the business of wrapping up a life. Paperwork, phone calls, visits, obituaries, funeral and memorial arrangements, and cleaning out personal belongings have filled our days. The harder part has been to support my mother-in-law--help her redefine life after 62 years of marriage to her deeply loved sweetheart. She's had significant health issues that have made this new adjustment even more challenging than normal.
Needless to say, it is a journey of faith for all of us. But oh, the incredible gift of God's peace and help through it all! I experienced this two-and-a-half years ago when my own beloved Mom passed away, an astonishing surprise in the waves of loss and sorrow. It has brought into sharp focus once again the absolute surety and reality of "God with us." It's true--we sorrow not as those who have no hope.
So now nearly three months out from Tom's passing, I'm thankful for many ways the Lord has shown His goodness to our family. The lessons in this loss have been important reminders to my own life:
- The Lord orchestrates the affairs of His children. We moved here at the right time--God's time. We had a wonderful year-and-a-half with Tom, a compressed time of relationship building and love, and Leesie got to know her grandpa.
- Things can change in a moment. It's been a sharp reminder to love and appreciate one another (and say so!) while we have the chance. One should leave this life with no regrets.
- We have hope. Our separations are only temporary! As Christians, we'll be together for all eternity, and in the meantime, we each need to finish our own course well.
- There's nothing like the Body of Christ. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness, love, support and generosity of Christian friends and our church in the days after Tom's passing. We were blessed with an abundance of meals, visits, prayer, encouragement, tears of sympathy, helps--an avalanche of loving goodness. It has taught me how I can be a better help to others in a similar situation.
- Life your life for Jesus. Tom was one of the most giving and generous people I've ever known, a wonderful father-in-law. He and my mother-in-law sowed seed for the Lord daily, from giving cookies to the trash man to helping friends buy a house. He saw opportunities to bless and bless he did. I saw firsthand the spiritual principle at work: he was 'enriched in everything' because he was 'rich toward God.'
- Leave a Godly legacy for your family and children. Tom was passionate about things like honor, faithfulness, generosity, care for the needy, patriotism, and love of God and His Word. His sons all live out these things and have passed them on to the next generation.
We miss you, Dad. But just wait a while...we'll be joining up again one day, and oh, what a party that will be! I imagine you'll greet us with one of your big hugs and have some new jokes to tell. You have been a gift to us who were blessed to know you here.