I Cannot but Rejoice: Response from Reader Lyn Robbins

Lyn Robbins

Lyn Robbins

For today’s post, we would like to share with you a message from Lyn Robbins. This was sent to co-author Mark Edwards following the Susie Edwards Memorial Concert at First Baptist Church, Nashville:


It is 11:30 Sunday night, May 22, the night after the memorial concert. I have just finished the book.

I sat up late reading last night, but I had to give up a little after midnight, 100 pages or so in. As you know, Friday and particularly Saturday were long days, and I was exhausted.

I picked up again on the flight home. I expect the tattooed gentleman sitting next to me drinking his scotch on the rocks wondered why I was getting weepy reading a paperback, but he did not ask. The plane landed just as Susie was choosing to forgo further treatment and you were calling in hospice. We got our bags, drove home, and spent some time with Annessa. Then, I came upstairs, turned on the video of the concert, and finished reading.

If you have watched the video yet, you know it starts with some "dead air." The music does not start until a few minutes into the video. This timing created what I would call coincidences -- if I believed in coincidences. For instance, as I got to the page on which you recorded Susie's actual death, speaking of how she "turned and looked straight into the Light," I was listening to "Be Thou My Vision." As I read the section on "Celebrating Alone," telling of your immediate reactions in the weeks and months after her death, I was listening to "Sometimes a Light Surprises." As I got to Weslee's incredible chapter, I was listening to "I'll Sing the Christian Song: 'I'm Going to Live Forever.'"

The video is still playing as I type this email to you now.

Having read most of the words in Notes from Susie the first time as they were posted on Facebook, I went into reading the book with an expectation of being reminded, and I suppose I was, but that is far and away not the primary experience... or even in the Top 6, of what the book meant to me. This was not about reminders. Reading the book was an almost entirely new, and profound, event.

Sorry, I need to stop typing for a moment so I can listen to and watch "Expression of Gratitude."


(Catching my breath...)

OK, I am back. But now, I have to listen to Ragan read John 14. Perhaps trying to type while this video is playing is a bad idea...

So, if being reminded was not the primary impact of the book, what was?

First, I heard Susie's voice so clearly. As I told Gena on the drive home from the airport, I do not know that I ever thought of Susie's speaking voice as being particularly unique, but it is distinct to me now. I read all the time, and I suppose I conjure up voices in my imagination for characters in books, but never before has it happened to me like this... where I read the words of someone and hear her particular voice enunciating every syllable as though she were sitting next to me, carrying on a conversation. I don't really know what to make of that yet, except to say that if your intention was to make the book personal -- you certainly succeeded. I did not hear her voice that same way when I was reading the posts on Facebook; this was different in kind... so perhaps there is something to the idea that Susie was somehow with me, sitting next to me, writing me a note and reading it out loud to make sure it was just right before she sealed the envelope, as I read.  My theology does not entirely know what to do with that, but I know what I experienced.

Second, I am overwhelmed by her lists of things for which she was grateful as she was walking through the shadow... even at times expressing thankfulness for her health.

Third, I found myself rooting for her as I read. Of course, I knew the ending. I knew that she was not going to make it.  But as I turned pages, especially early on, I found myself hoping against hope that the next infusion would be the magic elixir that would kill the dreaded disease and mean decades more of life for her. Illogical? Yes, since I just sang in her memorial concert. And yet, the struggle was on, and as in any good book, I was fighting right along with the hero. 

Fourth, I found myself asking hard questions, questions with painful answers. Since I knew the ending, and the timing of the ending, as the days wore on and became more and more painful, I started yelling (in my head - I did not want to disturb my seatmate's scotch) at Susie not to have that next infusion, not to put herself through another dose of poison that I knew was not going to work. I found myself asking, "Was it worth it?" And before that awful question was even fully formed, the answers came flooding in. Whether the medicine gave her another week or another month is not for me to know, but what I do know is the implausible, incredible, oh-so-real impact Susie's (and your) experiences had and are having on hundreds, yea thousands, of people every single day. What God did with your choices, your hurts, your hopes, your dealing with the ups and downs of a losing battle, and of course your faith goes beyond the depths of comprehension, passing all understanding. Weslee's fish-and-loaves explanation in her chapter of the book is the best way to say it, of course. You and Susie made every choice based on the best advice from your doctors, taking each other's wishes into account, and grounded in faith in God; and the outcome was what the outcome was. In the meantime - in the middle of the journey - you both evidenced what most only sniff around the edges, if they have any real sense of it at all. I do not for a minute suggest that this two-year free-fall was "worth it" or was "God's plan;" but I know beyond all doubt that God did and is doing a marvelous thing with Susie's last two years.  And just as God needed Antonio to build a Stradivarius violin, he needed Mark and Susie to pen these words.  During the daily readings of the postings, I had no perspective to understand this; at that point, it was simply praying and hoping and waiting for what would happen next. Now, in reading the book when I know the ending... and simultaneously regretting every pain and miserable moment she had and you shared... I cannot but rejoice.  

Fifth, I am humbled by your faith. I have known you a long time. I sang under your baton for years. We did shows together. We played softball together. You ministered to my wife in many personal and powerful ways. You and I were charter members of the Tuesday morning Bible study group you still attend. I have always known you as a man of faith... but this dark night of the soul gave you a whole new way to follow, a demonstration of faith beyond the comfort of the podium and the notes-and-rests for which you were trained.  And I suspect you would admit -- and agree with me -- that these struggles grew your faith. You discovered a new song in the night, a new hymn-tune to which to set words you had known for years. You demonstrated vulnerability and questioning without once betraying a failing of faith, and for that you are a role model to me and to all who read this book. Like Jacob, you had to wrestle with God, and you emerge walking with a pronounced limp; but you leave as Israel, the chosen of God.

And after all that... yes, I was reminded of the privilege I had -- as countless others had -- to share a little part of the journey with you both. 

Thank you for the book. Thank you for sharing. I thank my God in all my remembrance of Susie, and of you.

Lyn Robbins, attorney
Robbins Travis, PLLC, 
Southlake, TX