Saturday, April 25, 2009

the number of our days

No parents ever expect to bury their children . . .

That thought struck me, as it has so many times, as I carefully arranged pinwheels around Jonah's grave under the warm Sacramento sun.

But 25 years after putting that first pinwheel in the ground, Greg and I are at peace with God's timing. Jonah's short life served an eternal purpose that we will fully understand one day.

Although we are often left to wonder now . . .

I got an email from my friend, Lynn, last Saturday, informing me that her mother-in-law was very ill with a rare disease called aplastic anemia and that the whole family could use prayer. On Tuesday, she emailed again, explaining that Trudy had passed away during the night, surrounded by family and the peace of Christ.

Greg called Barry (Trudy's son) and found out that the funeral was scheduled for Thursday evening.

Of course we would be there, he told Barry. Barry had been part of a youth group Greg pastored in the early '80s. He and his mom, Trudy, had loved us through the loss of our son. (Barry actually wrote a paper about heaven his senior year. Much of it was a tribute to Jonah).

So we made some phone calls and last minute arrangements, jumped in the car and headed for Sacramento. We enjoyed the sunshine, took fresh pinwheels to Jonah's grave, visited with Lynn and Barry and then headed to the funeral.

Trudy's funeral was, as most are, a poignant mixture of joy and grief. Tears and laughter, sorrow and sweet memories all mingle together in a communal farewell.

The sharing was interspersed with Trudy's favorite hymns. As we sang "Be Thou My Vision," I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Not expecting to see anyone I knew at the funeral, I turned around and then gasped with surprise.

My long, lost friend, Debbie Evans was sitting directly behind me. I gasped because I was so thrilled to see her--but I was also a little surprised that she was alive!

I've written about Debbie before--she's battled full-blown AIDs for over 30 years now. She called me a few years ago and told me she'd just been released from the hospital after another brush with death.

"I just wanted to hear your voice again and tell you that I love you," she told me.

The paths of our lives have crissed and crossed over the years. We've moved a few times since I met Debbie in the mid-nineties and she'd had a few adventures of her own. For instance, about a year ago, she got hit by a car while riding to the store (Debbie didn't have a driver's license because of seizures). She barely survived and was in the hospital for months. I kept up with her progress through a Care Page some of her friends set up, but one day the page no longer existed. And Debbie's phone and email address were no longer valid.

I wondered what had happened, but was eventually swept away by the tsunami of my own life and never tracked down my friend.

Debbie came to mind this week during the 10 hour drive to California. Again, I wondered what had become of her, but realized the one person who could probably fill me in had just died. After our family moved to Oregon in 2000, Trudy befriended Debbie. And was a friend to the end.

Trudy became ill about two months before she passed away. After her condition was diagnosed, Trudy faced repeated chemo treatments and weekly transfusions to extend her life. But she grew weaker and finally announced to friends and family that the fight was over. Her strength was gone.

Trudy's family flew in from around the country to be with her. Her church family surrounded her with comfort and love. And Trudy had a special request during her last weeks of life. She wanted to say goodbye to Debbie. And Debbie Evans got to hug her dear friend one last time, both sad and shocked to have Trudy beat her to heaven.

Our days are numbered and only God knows the count. No one ever expected Debbie Evans to attend Trudy's funeral--just like Greg and I never thought we'd bury our son.

Psalm 139:16 "And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me . . ."


Kathryn said...

I hope you got Debbie's address so you can send her a photo of us riding at Long Hollow!

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