This is my favorite time of the year. Fall! I loved saying good-bye to the unseasonably hot and longer than usual Tennessee summer. It’s always a nice good-bye for me. I love the crispness in the air that accompanies the beautiful face of autumn.
Fall now brings more to me than just the normal much awaited seasonal changes. It holds memories that are still very fresh. It brings back the memory of October 23, 2014, the day I said good-bye to my mother. It was a long good-bye. I flew to Texas to spend a week with my parents having no clue that that 7 day planned visit would turn into 20. Just two days before my arrival, she stopped eating. It’s what happens during the last stage of Alzheimer’s. Usually the good-bye comes quickly, but not this time . . .
The memories of those days are so very clear. They are beautiful. They are brutal. My Mother was trying to say her goodbye to this world. My sister was fighting to live – enduring the hardest season of her cancer journey.
I can’t help but be reminded of something we talked about in a Bible Study I’m leading called “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit”. It’s a study taken from the book of Ruth. In that study the author mentions a phrase that’s really stuck in my mind – “Just so happened.” Ruth is a widow who made a choice to leave the land of Moab and make her home with her mother-in-law in the land of Israel. When they arrive Ruth knows she needs to find a way to provide food for the two of them. She goes to a field to pick up grain that is left from the harvesters, an acceptable practice of the culture at this time. “So Ruth went and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. She just so happened to be in the field of Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family.” Ruth 2:3 Elimelech was her father-in-law who died in Moab. It just so happens that Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son. That son is the great-grandfather of King David of the tribe of Judah. That’s quite a “just so happened”! God orchestrated quite an event here. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah!
The story of Ruth and Boaz is part of God’s narrative that is huge. But, my narrative is a big deal to God, too, and so is everyone else’s. It’s these “just so happened” moments that always continue to remind me of how much God loves me and cares about the way things unfold in my life. They are not haphazard. They have purpose and meaning, richness and depth.
For it just so happened:
- Months earlier a friend had let me borrow her DVD’s of our late beloved pastor’s sermons on Heaven. I just happened to have put them in my suitcase. I had my computer and watched them just outside of Mother’s room.
- I had the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from my mother for the times I know I let her down.
- My sister and I had time to fill the house with music as we played the piano and sang songs that we all loved.
- My daddy had the chance to say some needed words of endearment.
- When in the middle of despair a text or a phone call came that gave me words I needed to hear.
- God was putting together a plan for a date, a place, and perfectly skilled doctors for my sister to have one the most complicated surgeries a person could ever have that would happen in just a few weeks. This surgery meant life for her weakening body.
- I woke up early that morning, October 23rd, and decided to sit beside Mother during my morning devotion. Not sure why, but I landed in Psalm 119.
I read each verse of that long chapter out loud to Mother. It just so happened that immediately after I read that last verse, verse 176, Mother took her last breath on this earth. The good-bye to Mother had been much longer than any of us could have anticipated. God’s ways are beyond our understanding. But, one thing I know: pure joy and adventure was just beginning for her. Someone has said: Every beginning has an end, and every end has a beginning. This is one beginning that has no end. C.S. Lewis says this eloquently in “The Voyage”
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Are we living today with that great chapter One in mind? As my former pastor, Bro. Glenn Weekley, said in one of his sermons on Heaven: Our purpose on this earth includes preparing for life there. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18