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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life and Death

This was an incredibly difficult week. Two deaths in the same day. Two funerals in one week.

First, my beloved Uncle Dick, sweet Uncle, passed away after an infection. He was in his 80s, so while unexpected, it was not a surprise. He had been living in a nursing home facility for quite awhile and had progressively gone downhill. I flew back to Kansas for the funeral and despite the reason for our gathering, seeing my 40+ family members was a treat, as it always is. Hanging out in my cousin's garage with my "little cousins" was the highlight for me as well as visiting Uncle Dick and Aunt Joan's farm. I can't remember a time of late when the memories of my childhood came flooding back as vividly as they did on that Sunday. The site of the old house, the barn with its John Deere and Oliver tractors. Dodging cowpies to visit the cows in the pasture, and walking into the "shop" to see the boats, trucks and other treasures. Walking past the "cat house" and remembering my childhood and opening the door to a shed full of kittens. And best of all, the blue bike. Aw, the blue bike with the bell and white basket attached to the back. I had ridden that bike more times than I can count and carried my little cousins in the basket while I rode down the "big" hill around the block over and over again at my grandmother's house. The memories were clear, strong and pure and a wave of contentment washed over me.

Upon returning to Utah, I was faced with another death. Lee had told me over the phone that our 33 year old neighbor Kris had suddenly passed away in his sleep. Supposed cardiac arrest. He left behind a young wife and 4 children. We had come to know the family well, with the youngest child Clayton coming over to play most summer nights and standing in the street chatting with the family and our other neighbors. The 4th of July was particularly fun with Kris and the other neighborhood men lighting fireworks and concocting other ways to blow things up. We attended Kris's funeral and I can honestly say I cried as much at that service as I did at my Uncle's. The church was full to capacity and the service was entirely made up of eulogies from family and friends. It was painful, heartwrenchingly so, but I am grateful we were able to be there and to get to know our neighbor that much more from the stories we heard about him.

It has been a difficult week. Death is part of life. I admit I grappled with the meaning of Kris's death more than I did my Uncle's. I had peace about Uncle Dick's Passing. But the death of my neighbor left my soul in agony, as I imagined the reasons why God would take him so suddenly. It seems extremely unfair, and I am battling internally with God over why these things happen and praying now that Kris is in heaven.

Lee and I know that Kris had battled cancer and Crohn's disease for years. He was sickly, but you'd never know it. We learned that though they had no life insurance and his disease had left him unable to work for extended periods, he would give his last dime, and the shirt off his back to help others. Lee and I immediately vowed to take care of this family, the best we could and prayed that God would use us to shine our light for them in their hour of need.

This week has been a painful one, though the journey I have traveled and lessons learned are beautiful. Lately I have been standing on my soapbox of preachy righteousness, telling everyone who will listen that they must do something to help the widows and orphans of the world. I still agree with that platform, and know it is God's as well. However, my vision has changed. God so graciously humbled me in such a way that I would liken it to being hit upside the head with a spiritual 2x4. We all are commanded to do something. That is true and I do not falter from that notion. However, the scope of WHERE we must do something abruptly changed for me this week. I knew in my mind that there were orphans and widows in our country too, but until this week, I did not realize they are in my own backyard, or rather, across the street. And until this week I would have never been able to fathom how deeply they would affect me.

And so, we are called to serve and help those in need. Lee and I plan to make it our mission to help this family. It's easy to assume someone else will do it and turn our backs on others. But as much as I am convicted to do so, I encourage you to look in your neighborhood for someone you can help. Not everyone is called to adopt, or help orphans and widows financially but take it from me, this experience has taught me that I can do exceedingly more than I imagined as God has done the same for me.

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