In a previous post, I mentioned two fellow church musicians who have lost their wives to cancer already this calendar year calling and asking, in essence, how we made it through Honey’s journey and death at the hands of cancer. I’ve thought about that some, and, in addition to God ever-presence and love, I can identify four things that I’ll describe here and in the next three installments.
The most important thing is simply who Honey was. She led the way. She showed us, showed me how to do this. She was a glass half-full person whereas I’m more the half-empty type. We took her tack and it definitely was the right one.
My favorite uncle, an articulate and almost poetic preacher, used to say, “the older we get, the more like ourselves we become.” Though not obsessed or embarrassed about it, Honey never forgot nor took lightly the unmistakable hand of God in her life that began with a birth mother who chose adoption over abortion. She never forgot to be grateful for her wonderful adoptive parents – who also adopted two others – and the charmed life she enjoyed for 61 years. Her last two years were hard but not horrible, because as Uncle Glen would have said, “the older she got, the more like herself she became.” She was grateful and joyful at having been “chosen” and blessed when her life could have turned out much differently.
There was no pretense about Honey. She was who she was and she was the same with everyone. In a room full of smart people or the illiterate, rich or poor, with people who looked like us or otherwise, she treated all the same and typically gravitated to the seemingly “least of these.” I observed this so many times in countless medical settings during her illness. That’s just the way she was, she was joyful about it, and we all loved her for it.
She could adjust to nearly any situation, have a good attitude about it (usually), and make the very best of it. She was one of the most adaptable people I have ever known. Although she was highly organized and had her usual, basic daily routine fairly well set, she didn’t mind altering it if necessary. I suspect that was because she was unselfish to a fault, always considering the needs and well-being of others first.
As I said earlier, Honey was not the out-front-type person. She didn’t “command the room” but she sure could light up any room with her smile. Behind the scene, in the background and deep inside, she was a gentle and loving steel magnolia. In the midst of life’s biggest challenge, life’s lowest place she became more and more like herself and it rubbed off on everyone around her. (If she were reading this right now, she would look at me, frown in disbelief, and say “WHAT?”)
In our nearly 45 years of marriage, I was pretty much the leader of our family and she was good with that. But in her illness, she stepped up – no, actually she became just more and more like herself – and we all were good with that. The journey was easier because she was shining the light on the winding path and up the steep hill.
It makes one wonder how our becoming more and more like ourselves will serve us and those around us as we march toward the end of the road. Hmm!
Here’s a wonderful Celebrating Grace Hymnal hymn (#678 – set to a fresh David Schwoebel tune) to which Honey “subscribed.”
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
be there at our labors and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace:
be there at our homing and give us we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
be there at our sleeping and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
“Lord of All Hopefulness” – Jan Struther, 1931 (Oxford University Press)