"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 8, 2020
As I was preparing to write this on Monday evening, I received notification that my stepmother has just passed away. My mind is flooded with memories of her these past thirty-seven years that she has been in my life.
June and my dad were married January 7, 1983 of my senior year of high school. They had been married for 24 years when Daddy passed away in 2007. I have to be honest, when they got married, I wasn't thrilled! Mama had been gone for two years and I still missed her a lot and it was hard seeing my dad with another woman.
One of the wisest things that June told my sisters and me from the very beginning was that all she asked was that we would let her be our friend; that she knew she could never take the place of our mom, but she just wanted to be our friend. And she was indeed a dear friend to us all.
With the exception of my oldest four nephews, June is the only grandma that the other grandkids ever remembered or knew. She had five kids and Daddy had five kids, so between the two of them, they had a whole passel of grandkids. June never ever made any difference between her grandkids and Daddy's. She loved them all equally, treated them all equally, and was "Grandma June" to them all.
During my single years when I lived in Missouri, I only lived about 20 minutes or so from Daddy and June. Every time I went to visit, June would always want to send something home with me; whether it be some chicken from their freezer, a jar of home-canned green beans from their cellar, or a dress that she sewed for me while I was there visiting.
June was an accomplished seamstress. She could make a dress faster than anyone I know, and they would always fit me or whomever she sewed them for perfectly. The only difference of opinion where we definitely didn't agree was regarding dress styles. I preferred plainer styles made from solids or small print fabrics. June was the opposite! She liked big flowers, ruffles, and lace. She would make a dress for me, then say, "This looks kind of plain. Are you sure you don't want me to sew a ruffle around the tail (hem!), or around the neck.... or I could add some lace?" NO!
When the grandkids came to visit, June would load them up in the back of their pickup truck and take them for a ride down the dirt road. They lived out in the country and riding in the back of a truck down a dirt road was a big thrill for the grandkids, who mostly lived in the city. They had a huge rectangle trampoline and June would be out there watching the kids play and coming up with games and "tricks" for them to try.
She was quite a woman! June was one of the most positive, upbeat, happy women I've ever known. She never had a bad word to say about anyone and found the good in everyone. Something most of us could learn from! Even these last several years when Parkinson's had ravaged her body, causing it to tilt to one side and her being unable to turn her head, as well as her losing so much weight and being so tiny, she still had an upbeat outlook and never complained.
The last time I saw June, she was singing. One of the songs she sang was "Ain't God Good". Another song she wanted my sisters and me to sing the last couple times we saw her was "That Sounds Like Home to Me". Her eyes would tear up and then the tears roll down her cheeks, which made it difficult for us to hold it together and be able to sing.
I know that June is finally home! She ran her race on earth with endurance, faithfulness, and joy. Now her body is no longer twisted sideways, nor is her head stuck to one side. She is whole!!
This past Saturday I attended a funeral for a lady who used to attend our church. My sister spoke and what she said was encouraging and made us all think about life and eternity differently.
2 Peter 3:8 tells us this: "You must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like one day."
Time on earth is not the same as time in eternity! Eternity is not measured in minutes, hours, days, and years as we know it.
When a loved one dies, those of us on earth who grieve measure the time after their passing in days, months, and years. It feels like it's been so long since we last saw them and had a conversation, and we grieve and miss them. Life goes on, but having that person gone impacts our life and our family. Life is never quite the same after loved ones pass away.
But for those who are in heaven, they don't feel the slow passage of time and don't even realize the separation from family and friends. Why? Because they have stepped off their timeline into eternity. Eternity where time isn't measured as we on earth do.
Remember that verse I quoted above that to the Lord a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day? Think about this: Jesus has been gone from earth for 2,000 years. So if a day to Him is as 1,000 years, to Him, it's as if He has just left earth and ascended back to heaven! With the time in eternity, it's as if He has only been gone from earth for a weekend!!
So whether our loved one has been gone for an hour, a month, a year, fifty years.... or anywhere in between, to them who have stepped off the earth's timeline into eternity, to them it is only seconds. So when we step off our timeline into eternity, it will be as if they have only arrived and then they turned around and there we are. There is no pain of separation or even any separation of time between those whom we love who are already in heaven, until our arrival.
Upon our arrival, that pain of separation and the grief we've felt or feel now, will immediately be gone. We will no longer remember that it was so many years since we've last been together, but it will be as if we all arrived pretty much at the same time. That's an incredibly awesome thought!!
It is a small consolation that the ones we've lost aren't pining for us, aren't hurting, aren't sick or feeble. But it doesn't help us hear their voices, hold their hands, or hug them. They won't answer our questions, or tell us jokes, or simply sit with us.
I'm sure no one wants their loved ones to be happy when they die. I hope Loretta can manage through life without me, but I don't want her to dance with joy when I'm gone. And I'd be hurt and offended if anyone even acts pleased if Loretta goes first. And I'd be pretty angry if someone were to tell me I should be happy when I lose Loretta. I would have been angry if someone told me I should be cheerful when my dad passed. I know he was miserable for his last few years, and I know it's a relief that he isn't suffering, but I couldn't be happy or cheerful to lose him.
So, please, if you know someone who has lost someone in their family, whether someone very close, or even a distant relation, please let them know you are sorry to hear about their loss. And allow them to grieve. Please don't tell them to be happy about it.
I know many people think that if you believe in God that you should be happy in all things. No, it says "give thanks in all circumstances", not "be happy". Ecclesiastes 3:4 says clearly that there is "a time to weep", and "a time to mourn". Don't fight it. It's how we are designed.
Quick and Easy Chili
1 pound hamburger
1 can chili-ready tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can Wolf brand chili
1 can Rotel
Brown meat and onion; drain. Salt and pepper, to taste. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. To make less spicy, you can add 1 can of diced tomatoes.
A few years ago, I wrote a letter to June telling her of all the memories that I had of her. I just re-read part of it and one memory I had written about was June's endless pots of pinto beans. I had never seen anyone eat as many beans as she did! She always, and I do mean always, had a pot of brown beans cooked. If you ate lunch or supper with her and Daddy, she might cook other food, but there would always be beans on the table. Always! When our family got together for Thanksgiving or Christmas or a special occasion, we might plan a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings or whatever, but June would always show up with her pot of pinto beans! She would say, "I thought someone might like some beans, so I brought some."
One time her daughters asked me if their mom brought beans every time we got together. I told them yes, and they laughed and said she did the same thing when their family got together; so they had been curious if she did that to our family, too. Her daughter-in-law recently asked me the same thing, when Jon and I stopped by to visit her and my stepbrother. She loved her beans!!
Faith tells me no matter what lies ahead of me this year, God is already there. - TobyMac
We love you!
Loretta & Jon