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 (#68)

June 6-14, 1970

At Nate's house.After Nate’s last exams and the end of my school year in Danville, the two of us headed off to an all-day Nyman family reunion. From there we continued on to Nate’s home to spend several days with his brother (right) and parents.

Our two little charges, Toby 2 and Baron, came along, providing non-stop entertainment.

From there we drove to Wilmette where Mom and Dad had a chance to get acquainted with their grand-doggies. The first Toby, our family dog for 15 years, had been Mom’s constant companion, and she missed him dearly. Cuddling with two lookalikes did something special for her heart, and even Dad bonded with our little buddies.

Mom loves the puppiesDad and puppy.

During the week we connected with Mary, Bervin, brother Tom, Aunt Agnes, and others, one of which was our friend Connie.

She had a new puppy, too, and her roommate was longing for a dog of her own. She asked if we’d ever consider parting with one of our little guys, and though we gave her a firm no, we looked at each other and then told her we’d think about it.

Connie and pup


At the beachToward mid-week we drove the 110 miles to our family’s summer cottage in Michigan, where the poochies had their first beach experience. They wore them- selves out dashing up and down the dunes, and though neither braved a swim, both loved scampering along the water line. Nate and I bragged to Mom and Dad about how smart they were, learning to potty outdoors and even whining to get out when they needed to go.

Puppies diggingAs the week passed, we talked about the possibility of parting with one of our puppies. The reality was that two dogs might be one too many in our small Champaign apartment.

By the time we arrived back in Wilmette, we knew what was the wise thing to do – surrender one of them to Connie’s roommate. She was thrilled when we told her and came right over to play with them and learn their personalities.

Since Nate and I loved them equally, we let her choose which one she wanted: it was Toby 2. The only good thing about this transition (so difficult for us) was that now, instead of being a #2, Toby 2 became a full-fledged Toby – and a definite #1 with his new owner.

Holding him closeOur drive back to Champaign after a week away was quiet and sad. I held Baron close, promising him we’d never let him go. The next day, however, brought a bit of bad news. While showing him off to several neighbors, one of them said, “Don’t you know dogs aren’t allowed in our building?”

We hadn’t considered such a possibility and had never thought to ask the landlord. But one thing was certain – hiding one dog would be easier than hiding two.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 10:26)

Young Love (#107)

November 2, 1969

With Aunt AgnesAfter a Saturday full of astonishing surprises, Nate and I headed for Aunt Agnes’s quiet condo to continue working on wedding invitations. We were past the date when we’d wanted to get them mailed, and time was running out. She was glad to see us, relishing the time with us almost as much as we were enjoying time with her.

At about midnight, while Nate was taking a bathroom break, Aunt Agnes leaned across the card table where we were working and said, “You know, I think he likes me.” And she was right – but it didn’t just go one way. Aunt Agnes loved Nate’s gentlemanly manners and the way he deferred to her, but he also appreciated her generosity and fun-loving spirit — along with her delicious coffee.

Once again we pursued our project until the wee hours before running out of steam. It was well into Sunday before Aunt Agnes and I finally flopped into her bed and Nate closed his eyes in the guest room. But the invitations were nearly finished.

The next day (after church) it was time to head to Milwaukee to see Julie’s bedroom set and find out if she really thought we could care for it properly. But her only concern was whether or not we’d like it. “This might not be your style,” she said, “so you can be honest. If you don’t want it, I’ll figure out something else.”

IMG_5254When we got a look at the furniture, we were dumbstruck. It was unique in every way with a curved headboard on the double bed and curled wood framing each mirror. The protective glass tops made everything shine, and for both of us it was love at first sight.

“You can have the spread, too,” she said, at which point I flopped on the bed to find out what imported silk felt like.

“Good thing my grandma didn’t just see that,” Julie said. “In all her years of marriage, she never let her husband so much as touch that bedspread, much less sit on it…. or flop on it.” I hopped up immediately and promised to do better, but Julie was laughing.

Dresser drawerWe arranged to pay shipping costs to Champaign, and down the road, if she never had cause to want it back in Wisconsin, we would pay for it. Julie said, “Remember, you’re saving me a monthly storage fee.” But we had no doubts about who was getting the better deal.

With joyful hearts we made our way back to Champaign with only 27 days left before the wedding. Little did we know that the coming week was going to bring a crisis.

“From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” (John 1:16)