First of all, thank you to all of you for the support you have given our family in so many ways during the past month with Diana’s passing. A friend from France put it this way in an email : “She has gone to the house of the Father.” I like that image – I believe she would have liked to have heard it put that way as well. Thank you for caring for us and for helping us during this time of transition.
Second, … what to say ? The past month has been such a whirlwind of people, activity, and emotions, and I struggle to put into words the significance of it all for myself and my family. I’ve been trying to pinpoint in my own mind what the lessons have been. Maybe it’s too early to tell. It makes me think of the scene at the end of The Wizard of Oz when the hot air balloon has slipped out of its moorings and Dorothy is left behind, unable apparently to make her return trip to Kansas. As I recall, Glenda asks her what lessons she has learned during her time in Oz. She struggles to grasp what those lessons were, then finally lands on a few things, especially the lesson that there’s no place like home.
I’m also trying to grasp what the lessons of this chapter of life have been for me. Here’s a clumsy attempt :
1. I have been overwhelmed by people’s kindness. Why hadn’t I learned earlier how meaningful and powerful small (and large) acts of kindness are ? Truly, our family has been carried along by cards, meals, gifts, rides, phone calls, emails, visits, and more, from so many people both near and far. I am sometimes brought to tears by a card in the mail from someone I may not have heard from in years. They want to associate with my grief and let me know they share my burden. It means a lot. Every card, every thought, every memory has been a small piece of getting us through this sorrowful time. I’ve been prompted to be more mindful of how much some small act of kindness may mean in a person’s life today.
2. I have been reminded of what a special partner I have had in life and marriage. Truly, Diana was a unique person. Without a doubt, what most attracted me to her was her very real relationship with the Lord Jesus. Although she wasn’t perfect, she did hold to the belief that the Lord deserved unswerving obedience. He was all. When she was aware she had disobeyed in some way, she was quick to ask for forgiveness and make things right. When she knew she was walking in obedience, she was fearless. That was contagious and was what attracted me to her. I knew, too, that He is all — I just didn’t live it out as readily or as easily as it seemed she did. At some point in her life, prior to knowing me, she had set her heart on Him and wasn’t going to let go. As was mentioned at her funeral service, she believed she had an answer to life ; that answer was Jesus.
Beyond that, I’ve been brought face to face with the reality of all she did in our family and how great was her love for our children. As we’ve gone through just a few of the things in her dresser and desk, I’ve come across many notes between her and the kids, even little baby teeth of theirs she was saving for … herself ? … for them ? … who knows – only a mother knows those things. Now, I have the load of loving and leading the family by myself. Wow, pray for me.
3. I’ve learned an important lesson about life and my own personal worth. Someone challenged me recently that as men we too often estimate our own value by what we are able to do. In addition, pastors often derive self-worth from serving others. If we aren’t doing and serving, we don’t think we’re worth very much. I didn’t realize until now how much that has been true of me. In the past month I’ve had to let go of doing … and pretty much let go of serving too — at least in the ways I had been used to. It’s hard to let go of the self-worth (or is it really pride ?) that comes with being able to get a lot done and help a lot of people. Being brought face to face with death makes a person feel pretty helpless and pretty small. I was busy “doing” on that morning when it was suddenly brought to our attention by the hospice nurse that life was coming to an end. Suddenly, my “to-do” list seemed really unimportant. It still does.
Now, I wonder what I will accomplish with the remaining years of my life. The answer is truly, “I don’t know.” Maybe not all that much, at least compared to what I once thought I ought to accomplish. When it became clear Diana was dying, she was able to say just two or three things to me. One of those things was, “Take good care of the kids.” I intend at least to do that. So, now I have two sets of marching orders — one from my commander-in-chief : “Make disciples” ; and one from my partner-in-chief : “Take care of the kids.”
4. I am learning to trust God. Recently, the kids and I listened to a sermon on the internet. It seemed to be timed just for us. Taken from Romans 8:28-31, the three points of the message were these :
God is working. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (8:28).
God is working according to plan. “… according to His purpose ; to conform us to the image of Jesus” (8:28-29).
God’s plan is going to succeed. “foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified” (8:30).
Those are words we can — and must — hang onto. He is in charge, not us. Another realization I’ve made is that I lived my life with the notion that because we were married Diana somehow “belonged” to me. Maybe you have felt that way, too, about Diana or about someone else you love very much. That was never true. She never belonged to me – she belonged to God.
He is working. … He is working according to plan. … His plan is going to succeed.