One Year Without Mary

September 24, 2017

One year ago today, Mary left us, although that isn’t the accurate way to say it. She didn’t willfully leave us but allowed her departure to be orchestrated by God.

Trusting God.Scripture says Jesus has the key to death (Revelation 1:18) and that whatever he opens, no one can close. (Revelation 3:7) A year ago he opened death’s door for Mary, and her spirit walked willingly through it, right into eternal pleasure. It was God’s perfect plan for her.

That’s the encouraging thing about a loved one’s passing. If we, like Mary, have loved and followed Jesus in our earthly lives, death’s door is simply a passageway to a glorious new life we can’t possible picture now.

Knowing that, however, doesn’t ease the sorrow in the rest of us. Throughout this day, our minds have been filled with Mary – sweet remembrances and the thousand-and-one-ways we each miss her.

Bervin initiated a time of sharing tonight, to take place at the beach Mary loved so much. A bunch of us gathered to talk and let our eyes freely fill with tears, if need be. From a wide circle of beach chairs, we shared bits and pieces of who Mary was to each of us by way of things we hold dear about her now – memories from silly to serious.

Bervin prays

Bervin coaxed Scripture from us by asking if anyone could recall Bible passages that Mom/Grandma had taught them. As 7 young children played in the middle of our circle, the verses came forth. And in reciting those, we remembered how much Mary loved the Word of God.

It’s mindboggling to realize she is now loving THE Word, face-to-face. (John 1:1) And as one of her children said tonight, “She’s also got all the answers to all the questions the rest of us are still asking.”

SunsetLater, as we warmed hot dogs over our fire on a perfect weather-evening, the sun set over Lake Michigan. And we concluded that none of us knows who will next join Mary or when that might be.

But if she had walked up to our circle on the beach tonight with a bit of advice from her life “on the other side,” she probably would have said something like this: “Trust God with your life… and death. Study your Bibles. And be sure you say these words to others often: I love you.

“Because after all, you never know…”

On the beach“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

Newlywed Love (#81)

Aug. 1-2, 1970

After Nate’s rough week with his rural paper route, we took a much-needed break over the weekend – not that there wouldn’t be plenty of studying for both of us and also the difficult weekend paper route. But we hoped to do two happy things: investigate new car possibilities and attend a party given by one of Nate’s law school buddies.

Big carsDad had asked us to do some vehicle research, so we started with the dealerships in town. Since we didn’t have children, we thought it might be one last chance for a sports car and set out with that in mind.

We learned, however, that the only good lookin’ American sports car was the Corvette… way out of reach. Muscle cars abounded: Pontiac GTO, Chevy 409, Ford Thunderbolt, Chrysler Charger. But those had no appeal.

Finally one frustrated salesman said, “Why don’t you look for a foreign car. But be careful. Most shops won’t work on them, since they need European tools and stuff like that.”

When we tried to follow up on his suggestion, all we found was a VW dealer. The sales guy there told us about VW’s sporty Karmann Ghia but didn’t have one to show us. In another showroom, though, we found something that had instant appeal – a Fiat 1245 Spider, made in Italy.

Fiat from yesteryear

It was love at first sight. But we couldn’t even think about buying it till we sold the Mustang. We called Dad to say our research was complete and gave him the specifics, emphasizing that it was an economical car nothing like our other sports car, the Corvette.

He asked lots of questions, but the price seemed realistic to him, and he didn’t try to dissuade us. This was impressive from a man who had always and only bought American.

For him the main selling point was the Fiat’s excellent gas mileage. After all, gasoline had risen to 36 cents a gallon. “Just get busy and sell your Mustang,” he said. “Then we can move forward.”

At the partyThat evening when we readied for the party, we were in good spirits. Nate’s old friend Bill from college grad school counseling days (now head resident at Bromley Hall) had invited a group of former counselors for a get-together in the dorm apartment.

It turned out to be a festive time reconnecting with many who had graduated and left the area. Although beer flowed and cigarette smoke filled the room, the conversations were fascinating – a patchwork quilt of what 20-somethings were thinking in 1970.

I spent a great deal of time with Bill’s beautiful dog, satisfying my longing for snuggle-time with Baron.

Friendly doggieWe knew we’d probably never see this group of pals again, so I brought my camera, inviting Nate to take pictures of everybody. And as always, he took a bunch of me.

“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Newlywed Love (#80)

July 28-31, 1970

Nate and I were learning that taking on a pet was a bigger commitment than we thought… especially a dog. We were both keen on keeping commitments in general, and part of that was doing the work connected to them. Tossing that to someone else made it their commitment, and that’s what we’d done to Mom and Dad with sweet Baron.

But we tabled those thoughts to tend to more urgent matters: selling the Mustang, finding an economical vehicle, studying hard, and running Nate’s paper route. This job, which began with such promise, had morphed into a disaster. Though Nate had faithfully made his deliveries, never missing a day, he hadn’t made a nickel.

Courier officeAt the end of the first week, his boss told him something he had probably purposely withheld: payment would come only as his customers paid him. At the office he showed Nate how to hand-write the bills on a payment envelope and band them to the papers once a week.

The problem was, virtually none of his customers actually paid. He had to walk up to each house, usually at dinner time when people were home, and plead for the money. It didn’t take long to learn that once a product had been received, a buyer was reluctant to pay for it.

This felt even worse than failing to sell pots and pans. After all, the people on his paper route had already agreed to buy the product. Worst of all, Nate had had to pay up front for all the newspapers, purchasing each bundle before going on his route. He also had to pay for the required rubber bands, and these expenses had up-ended our meager budget.

DollarsOne evening after delivering papers every day for almost 4 weeks, he returned empty from another bill-collecting trip. His frustration had reached the boiling point, and he erupted. “I’m basically giving the gift of a  free Courier subscription to each one of my customers – every week!” He stomped back and forth in his own protest march while venting his anger. “And then they slam doors in my face when I ask them to pay what they owe!”

“Well,” I said, trying to be positive, “you’ve collected $70 so far. At least that’s something.”

“But that went toward paying for papers and rubber bands!” he said. “And my boss is mad, because we’re still in the hole with him.” Nate was right, of course. It was a big mess.

In one last effort to lift his spirits I said, “Well, we may be poor, but at least we’re happy.”

Even as I said it, we both knew it was only half true. But there was one genuinely hopeful development – the Mustang. People were responding to our ad, several had come to see it, and two seemed almost ready to buy. “Maybe we can get a bidding war going over our polluted little car,” I said, hoping Nate would laugh at such an absurdity.

But he didn’t even smile.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)