No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (NLT)
Twenty two years ago today, December 30, surgeons removed a cancerous kidney from my husband’s body. We lived more purposely after that surgery. While he still felt well enough, he continued to teach at York College. Students voted him Teacher of the Year or First or Second Runner Up, 13 times out of his 20 years as a faculty member. During the school year, we had about 30 young people come to our home each week. We would feed them and then, with the rest of the MAP Committee, we would train these students in all things pertaining to missions. These were Master’s Apprentice Students. We often took mission trips in the summer to different places. I was often the cook, sometimes cooking for 40 or 50 people from a closet known as a kitchen. We loved camping. We camped all across Canada – from one end to the other. We camped in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Rockies, the Cascades, on the coast of California and the coast of Maine and Massachusetts and in all the states in between. We also gardened and cut wood together for our wood-burning stove. We cared for my husband’s aging parents, took care of the farm business matters when they couldn’t, moved them into town, and were there with them in their last moments.
We had a good life together. We worked on our marriage all our married life and were about as happy as any two people could be. We often taught the young married class at church so we could share some of what we had learned. Every year we spoke at an engagement seminar for students called “Fit to be Tied.” We had our hard times, too. As a missionary family we went through culture shock and ongoing culture stress together, then reentry shock and ongoing reentry stress. Our son was killed crossing a neighborhood street in Lincoln, Nebraska, by a young truant teen who was drinking, smoking pot and driving way too fast. Then when York College went through its troubles, we struggled mightily. Such things can destroy a marriage. We determined they would not.
My husband was a good Dad. We camped with our kids all over Europe the 15 years we lived there. He played kick-ball and hide and seek and soccer and catch and drank imaginary tea from plastic tea sets. He read to the kids at night and had a weekly bible study with them – all geared to their age. At night in their pj’s he would romp on the floor with them and carry them upstairs to bed. He taught each one of them to drive a car, a tractor and a riding mower. That man had patience.
My husband prepared me to live independently. When we were courting, he told me that I might be a widow for a long time because of our age difference. I didn’t really believe that then. All I wanted was to be his wife. He encouraged me to study. Even when we lived in the Netherlands, he would make it a point to stay home one evening every week with the children so I could go to continuing education classes. I studied in Dutch and wrote papers in Dutch. I studied the arts and music and literature and history. I took German, French and Castilian Spanish. When we returned to the states I finished my degrees and when I began my doctorate, he joined me and we were in stat and research classes together at the University. We wrote our dissertations at the same time and did our research together. It made for great conversations. My husband encouraged me professionally - to branch out into areas I wouldn’t have ventured without his encouragement. He was my cheerleader. And he was my advocate.
Before I met my beloved, I prayed often that God would give me a husband who loved Him more than He would love me and who would allow me to love God more than him. God answered that prayer and as it turned out, loving God first increased our love for each other. God was wrapped up in everything we did. What I miss more than anything are our talks about scripture, the word studies, finding the meaning of some passages. When I was really stressed, I would take my bible to him and lay my head in his lap and he would read to me until I was calm again.
George Eliot said, it best: “What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life? To strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent , unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting.” Tom died 11 years ago on January 1, 2000. It was a day filled with sacred moments, which I have written about elsewhere in this blog. I am very thankful I was blessed by God with a good man and a great marriage.
"No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven" Phillipians 3:13,14 (NLT).