My mother-in-law passed away today. Fortunately, Jim and his sister, Karen, were able to be with her in Arizona during this time. Jim flew out last Thursday and had been holding vigil since. Lots of life and death decisions to make and the weight of it all has been heavy. Second-guessing mingled with mourning. I recently found old notes from a leadership conference which dealt with making tough calls. My notes said that in making tough calls, one must understand your part and God's part. Yours is to make the tough call. God's is to deliver you. It also said to pray for discernment and courage. I reminded Jim of this last night. He held great courage as he struggled to discern the correct tough call. Jim has walked beside and supported others as they were in similar tough circumstances making tough calls. It is much more difficult when it is your own shoes in which you must walk. He's a good man. I am so grateful he was able to be with Barb during her final days. It would have been devastating to think that she would die alone.
As is common when someone dies or lays dying, I've been thinking back over the last twenty-eight years. I've been remembering the first time I met Barb and Ed. Jim and I flew from Bangor, Maine to Phoenix, Arizona. Two days later on Christmas morning, Jim proposed in front of them. We went to an Arizona Suns basketball game that night and I never watched the game. I couldn't take my eyes off my new ring and the way the lights made the diamond sparkle. We drove to the Grand Canyon. Barb and Ed were in the front seat, bickering the whole way while Jim and I just laughed. They reminded me of the characters Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn portrayed in the movie "On Golden Pond." I've always thought of Barb as that character Ethel Thayer. I still smile when I remember that trip. Barb was always pretty upfront about things (and sometimes I wished she wasn't). One morning, while we sat drinking coffee, Barb pulled out a box of old pictures. She said, "I thought you might like to see what Jim's first wife looked like." At first, I was taken off guard, but as she shared the pictures I gained an appreciation for what she was doing. She meant no harm, she just wanted me to know it was okay to ask questions. I was grateful she did that.
Being so far away, I can only pray and offer support. It is a helpless feeling to not be able to be there with Jim. He was such a rock for me while my dad was dying. I would want to offer the same. I struggled with what to do as I waited. I decided to hold babies. Our church has been blessed with two new babies in the last six weeks. Jailen, born three weeks early, is six weeks old. Baby Drew, Jailen's "best friend," is three weeks old. I visited Jailen this afternoon and just held him after learning of Barb's death. Tonight, I brought Drew and his daddy warm chocolate chip cookies. I got to hold Drew and gave him a bottle while his mommy was at class. What better way to honor a death than to welcome new life?
In the midst of sadness, Jim and I feel God's presence.
Pas De Deux
5 months ago