It was hard to think of it as bad news when it came. Dan was so ready to go Home. A year and a half is a long time to deal with brain cancer in an earthly, pain-wracked body.
Now, he has a new body. No more pain, no more tears.
But last Saturday we spent remembering the man that lived in the earthly body we knew so well. Tall, distinguished, with long sideburns—before his hair had to be cut so short, he always oiled it like my Papa does. Every Sunday he was in slacks and cowboy boots.
He called me “Gretch” from the time he met me. It didn’t take long to discover we were kindred hunters. Of course, it wasn’t until his funeral when I learned he was the best of the best when it came to hunting, and the owner of many trophies.
It was the weekend of my birthday that he first collapsed. Dorothy was so thankful she hadn’t gone to the women’s retreat like she’d planned. It took many tests before they finally discovered what had caused the blackout: a tumor on the brain stem.
We watched him fail a little bit each week. Some Sundays he’d have a bad day and not make it to church. But as long as he could, even when it would have been easier to stay at home, he always made the effort to come and fellowship.
Dorothy said it was the Sunday before Christmas when they made it to church last. When we got home from our travels, he was confined to bed. But they started taping the sermons so that Dan and Dorothy could still feel a part of our little church service.
We stopped by on a whim, with some lemon bread Merritt had made, to say hi on Resurrection Sunday.
Now we’re so glad we did.
He always loved seeing our girls. And they adore the rubber duckie quilt that Dorothy lovingly stitched for them.
It’s good to have Dorothy back in church. But we miss seeing Dan by her side. Instead, their son Daniel is there. Their son who came to Christ through his dad’s sickness.
I know Dan would say it was worth it.
Saturday was the first memorial service I’ve been to since I got married four years ago. Strange to go so long when I grew up in a church with many dear precious old people who often seemed to be in a race to step over to Jordan’s shores. In fact, I think the last services Merritt and I had each been to were the January before we go married—he was at Uncle Dick’s service, I was celebrating the life of another Richard who went by Everett.
We sat in the back of the church—another building, as there were more than would have fit in the building where our own small church meets—with our two little girls. Or rather, Merritt and Ruth sat while I walked Mary. Her shrieks and giggles showed she was too young to understand that it was not play time. And yet, they were a vivid reminder that life goes on.
It was a strange feeling to be there, looking around at all the dear people who have come into my life in the last four years. I’m used to going to funerals with people who have known my family for 40, 50, even 60 years.
And yet, perhaps, if the Lord tarries, I will be going to celebrations with these people 40 years from now.
I couldn’t help but wonder, though, as I glanced from each now-familiar head to another, who would be the next to go Home.
But only God knows.
The last time we saw Dan was on Resurrection Sunday. And perhaps it won’t be too long before that Trump shall sound, and we will meet again on another Resurrection Day—at that Resurrection when the dead in Christ shall rise first.