Over the past few days, since Friday, in fact, i've been to three funerals. (Yes, that in addition to getting ready for Christmas, Angel Tree, OneHarvest, and everything else.)
Yesterday, it was a lady i had never met, but i know her husband. He is a maintenance worker at the local MallMart. He and i stop to talk any time i see him, and sometimes we share Bible verses, or jokes. He is quite a character.
Saturday when i was buying out the toy section, i saw him and walked over, telling him "Merry Christmas!" He responded with, "My wife died." As i hugged him and told him i was so sorry for his loss, he smiled and told me "She had a stroke 6 years ago, and was totally housebound since then. It's a blessing, she got to see and hold our first granddaughter, and she was ready."
The service was small, as they don't have a big family. Her husband, sister, and son and daughter were the only family present. Daughter's husband and in-laws sat separately for some reason, and a few church members and friends showed up. It was held at the Baptist church across the highway, where i used to work at the pre-kindergarden. Brother Frank, who was the founding pastor back in the 1950's and is now pastor emeritus, preached a very good Baptist funeral, telling us all about our hope in Christ. The only problem with it was that i had a coughing fit in the middle and had to hurry out so as not to disturb anyone.
Afterward everyone gathered in the gym for a typical feeding, like the Baptist ladies always put on at a funeral. About the time they left to go to the cemetery, i said my good-byes and went on to the next errand.
On Saturday, after the shopping and before running other errands, i attended the funeral of an elderly member of our church. She had been part of about 17 zillion different committees and societies around town and in our church. She was the head of the committee that saw to it our pastor had a desk worthy the title of "desk of the head pastor." When the finance officer argued with her over the desk, trust me, she got the best of it, the desk is still there!
She had had a few health setbacks in previous months, but seemed to be recovering. Every time anyone went to visit her, no matter her condition, she was dressed to make-up and shoes with her hair done. To the end, she would DVR as many ball games of every kind as she could, and when she would answer the phone she'd say, "Hello, and if you are watching the other game, don't tell me the score!"
She loved family, friends, her family farm, and was probably the only 80-something year old woman with a premium subscription to the New York Yankees Channel.
She will be sorely missed, as she was also a very gracious lady who knew how to make everyone around her feel comfortable. She knew how to compose life well.
The day before that, it was Ms. D. Hers is a story i know her husband would have preferred not to ever have to tell, but there you are.
Seven years ago, Ms. D was a 43-year-old wife and mother of two young teen boys when, out of the blue and with no symptoms, she had a heart attack. EMS was called, they started CPR and got her to the hospital. Once there, the doctors "brought her back."
Only, they didn't. Her heart was restarted (and they never figured out a reason for the heart attack to begin with), so her body was there. She was in a persistent vegetative state in a rehab hospital/nursing facility ever after.
Her sons put a prayer card in for her every single week for seven years. Her husband, ever hopeful for a miraculous awakening, remained faithful, seeing her as often as he could while he raised two boys alone. Her mother went to see her often, sometimes bringing her horse to visit! The horse never wanted to leave when he came, not understanding why she wouldn't get up. Pastors and church members and friends visited every single week. She was always on our prayer list, all of us wanting her to be back at the church she loved and that loved her. She was especially missed by her Sunday School children.
A few months ago, her mother stated that she had changed her prayer. Seeing her daughter that way had become too hard, and she had asked The Lord would either cure her or take her home. Her husband said he couldn't yet pray that. While he would be content to let her go if that was G-d's will, he couldn't pray that it would happen. He was still holding out hope for her to come home someday.
Then Ms. D got ill with a lung infection, which is what usually happens in these cases. They had already put in the order, from the beginning, not to treat beyond comfort care. Oxygen with extra moisture to help her breathe better, yes. Suctioning her lungs so she could breathe easily, yes. Antibiotics, x-rays, and aggressive treatment, no.
Saturday the 13th, Ms. D's mother left to visit family out of state for a few days. That evening, her breathing became worse, and by Monday, her husband called the pastors to come pray with her. One pastor who visited her every week used to say that sometimes, when he would pray with her, she would cry. No one else had seen that, until this time. The senior pastor prayed with her and told her it was okay, she was loved, she could go if she needed to. She cried, and her husband wiped away her tears.
He still couldn't get himself to pray that she would go home to heaven, though. Monday night as he made his weekly visit to the prison to pray with some of the prisoners, they gathered around him and prayed for him, that he would be able to handle whatever came.
Tuesday, he finally did get to where he could pray for the end. He read an email from a friend that convinced him, and he prayed that if she was not to be healed that her death would be at such a time as to bring G-d glory. He also prayed that it would be peaceful, as her labored breathing from the infection was so difficult to watch.
Six hours later, a nurse went in and found Ms. D breathing normally. The nurse held her hand and prayed, and Ms. D took her last, very peaceful, breath. One minute later, one of the pastors of the church came in. They called her husband, and he came over, then her mother arrived home from out of town and came over.
It was just the right time. Her mother never had to see the difficulty of those last couple of days, her husband had finally come to be at peace with losing her for good, and in the end, it was not a labored, horrible gasping for air and choking. It was peaceful.
On Friday, the church was packed with the people who had been praying and walking with the family through this ordeal for 7 years. Ms. D's husband is a member of the choir, and every person i've ever seen sing in the choir was there. How they all got off of work on a busy Friday before Christmas i have no clue, but there was no room in the choir loft for even one more person.
Ms. D and her husband had always loved the song Highland Cathedral, so after the benediction, a bagpiper and our organist played it. Several choir members separately came up to her husband later and told him that, during the song, each had a vision of Ms. D riding her horse in a beautiful meadow! None of them realized any other had seen the vision until they started talking about it to him. He's convinced, he said on Sunday when he thanked the church for the years of love and care for their family. that she is, indeed, in that Highland Cathedral with her Savior and her horse, Rooster.
It's been an eventful several days, and it's got me in a contemplative, reflective mood this holiday season. Yes, i count that a good thing.
Birthday of the Queen Silvia -- Sweden (an official flag day)
Children's Day -- South Sudan; Sudan
Day of Acca Larentia -- Ancient Rome, Republic and Empire (earth goddess and protectress who raised Romulus and Remus)
Festivus -- For the Rest of Us! (The holiday introduced on the episode of Seinfeld that aired 12/18/97; have some meatloaf, decorate with an unadorned aluminum pole, have a "Feats of Strength" contest and an "Airing of Grievances"!)
Humanlight Celebration -- celebration of tolerance, compassion, empathy, honesty, free inquiry, reason, and rationality, information at secularseasons.org
Icelandic Yuletide Lad of the Day, Ketkrokur -- Meat-hook, who will lower a hook down the chimney and snatch a bit of meat if he can, especially if you are cooking lamb for St. Porlakur(Thorlac)
Igler Bergweihnacht -- Igls, Austria (charming nativity parade starring the children of this small town near Innsbruck)
Learn Metric Day -- US (passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1875)
Mouse-Marketing Day -- Fairy Calendar
National Day -- Maldives
National Pfefferneusse Day -- don't forget the Puderzucker!
Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) -- Oaxaca, Mexico (part of the lead up to Christmas, bring out your best carved radish!)
Popcorn Popping Day -- so you can string it on the tree, of course
Porlaksmessa, Feast of St. Thorlaker/Thorlac -- Iceland (Patron saint, though never officially recognized by the Holy See)
Roots Day -- as you gather with family during the season, don't forget to sit with elder relatives and learn about your family's past
Secret of the Unhewn Stone -- Celtic Calendar (Only day on their calendar not governed by a tree month)
St. John of Kanti's Day (Patron of Lithuania, Poland)
St. Servulus' Day (Patron of the disabled/physically challenged; against paralysis)
St. Victoria's Day (Patron of Anticoli Corrado, Italy)
Tenno Tanjobi -- Japan (Birthday of Emperor Akihito, national holiday observed as a day of rest.)
Two Days To Go Day
Victory Day -- Egypt (a/k/a Suez Victory Day)
Establishment of the US Federal Reserve System, 1913
Corey Haim, 1971
Carla Bruni, 1967
Eddie Vedder, 1964
Carol Ann Duffy, 1955
Susan Lucci, 1946
Harry Shearer, 1943
Robert Bly, 1926
Gerald O'Loughlin, 1921
Jose Greco, 1918
Madame C.J. Walker, 1867
Connie Mack, 1862
Harriet Monroe, 1860
Joseph Smith, Jr., 1805
"Hansel und Gretel"(Opera), 1893
Hoffmeyer's Legacy(Film; 1st with Keystone Kops), 1912
Today in History:
Byzantine-Arab Wars: Under the future Emperor Nicephorus Phocas, Byzantine troops stormed the city of Aleppo, recovering the tattered tunic of John the Baptist, 962
St Philip of Moscow martyred by Ivan the Terrible, 1569
Giovanni Cassini discovers Rhea, a satellite of Saturn, 1672
John Flamsteed observes Uranus without realizing it's undiscovered, 1690
The Continental Congress negotiates a war loan of $181,500 from France, 1776
Benedict Arnold court-martialed for improper conduct, 1779
"A Visit from St Nicholas" by C. Clement Moore is published in the Troy (NY) Sentinel (Now usually titled " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas"), 1823
The opera Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck is first performed, 1893
The first all-steel passenger railroad coach completed, in Altoona, Pa, 1907
The first hospital ship built to move wounded naval personnel is launched, 1919
Alice H Parker patents gas heating furnace, 1919
Discovery of the first modern coelacanth in South Africa, 1938
The transistor is first demonstrated at Bell Laboratories, 1947
Dedication of Tokyo Tower, the world's highest self-supporting iron tower, 1958
The North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City is topped out at 1,368 feet (417 m), making it the tallest building in the world, 1970
A 6.5 magnitude earthquake strikes the Nicaraguan capital of Managua killing more than 10,000, 1972
The 16 survivors of the Andes flight disaster are rescued after 73 days, having survived by cannibalism, 1972
Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California becoming the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without aerial or ground refueling, 1986
In a referendum, 88% of Slovenia's population vote for independence from Yugoslavia, 1990
An 8.1 magnitude earthquake hits Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean, 2004
Volcanic activity alerts are issued in Chile and Argentina, in areas near the Copahue volcano, after it started to spew ash, 2012
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