Time Well Spent

As many of you already know, my mom Helen took her amazing journey into her eternal home in God’s presence and to be with her beloved husband Cedric a few days ago. I had just returned to Florida the day prior to her passing after spending nearly a week with her in her final hours.

This was time well spent for me…perhaps for her as well.

It has been a year of getting to know my mom, really for the first time, as an individual heart and soul apart from dad. As most who know, my Pops was hands on with people and held a more public persona than mom. Mom was a bit more reserved and content to operate under dad’s wing so to speak. They were married a blessed 67 years, with a noteworthy commitment to their marriage and life together.

And so…it is not surprising that I find myself, having spent a significantly greater amount of time in personal one-on-one with mom this year, coming away with a sharpened appreciation for her depth of faith, incredible quick wit…and most profoundly: her deep passion for those who give kindness and compassion without reservation.

This brings me to the mention of a few people, I am aware of, whom made her life special. First and foremost is mom’s only daughter Becky. Almost always the unsung hero (familiarity often rewards with being taken for granted) for her daily post of standing in the gap for both our parents,. Becky sacrificed many freedoms and pleasures as the constant on call chosen one of us siblings. She needs to know now from me how much mom and dad valued her love and care… and how much this brother appreciates her endless challenging task. I love you Becky!

Equal to my sister’s status as tops in love and care for mom is her true number one son Nick! From combing mom’s hair to clipping her nails…well, truly, if you know Nick…I cannot tell you anything you do not already know well.

I apologize if I leave anyone out, as my view is self-limiting. But beautiful souls of love and care in these last months for mom include…my cousin Kerin, mom’s sister Joyce and brother Kenny, and Dave and Lynn Pestotnik, true neighbors indeed!

As I prayed with mom and read scripture to her the week she died, she almost always requested Psalm 23…it is the Psalm to the Shepherd. It describes an in-the-moment and present relationship with God our Father as He is our Shepherd in a daily path in this life. It may serve as a fitting mantra describing how mom’s soul felt toward her God and Savior!

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Time well spent…the sacrifice of my sister and Nick, the gift of presence and prayer offered in recent days by loving family and neighbors…in the company of Helen Hall. Indeed, Helen Hall! Not the wife of Cedric or the mom of Becky, Brian, Brent and Blake…but a person of great individual value and praiseworthy faith: Helen Hall!

I have personally chosen not to return again to Iowa right now for her service for friends and family. You know how I feel toward you all who will grieve her passing. And I bid you to grieve well. I have chosen to have a personal Brent Hall family-time of memorial and goodby at her and Pops grave this Spring. My kids desire to say goodby and Spring will be when it most fits their and my respective life circumstances; as I have one daughter rehabbing from a serious motorcycle accident and cannot travel yet, and a daughter and son-in-law in fulltime ministry (holidays are busy and stressful) and a son who works a job that is at its peak of his requirement.

So I am choosing a Spring memorial trip to Sparks cemetery with my kids and grandkids to celebrate the lives of their Grandma Helen Letter J (named such by my eldest daughter Sarah) and of course to renew our memories of their Papa…my Pops.

For those wishing to join the memorial service this Monday, December 17, 2018 at 11:00 AM at the Evangelical Free Church in Boone, Iowa.

In my final thought regarding Helen Hall…it would be her greatest joy here and in Heaven for you to KNOW her Shepherd and the Savior Jesus Christ personally this Christmas season. If you want to know how you can be sure…I would love to tell you about the greatest live story of all time. It will be time well spent! God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Neither Here Nor There…

Often in my past life as a pastor, I would mention the great understatements found in God’s Holy written Word. For example a casual reading of Genesis 22 reads like an average everyday occurrence. But plug in the known emotions surrounding Abraham as he dutifully obeyed God when he instructed him to take his only son Isaac to Mt Moriah and offer him up as a burnt sacrifice. The words are like a story…but you have to infuse the overwhelming confusion, and fear, and pain and sadness that would have crippled any one of us. As he was about to plunge the knife into his son The text tells us God called out Abraham’s name…twice! Abraham answered, “here I am Lord!” Genuine understatement.

Or how about Matthew 27:17, where we read about the murderous prisoner named Barabbas whom Pilate released when the crowd wanted to crucify Jesus the Christ instead of Barabbas? The understatement here is that we never learn anything more about Barabbas whom was quite literally the first person saved by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. I want to know more about Barabbas!!!

Scripture records many incidents of human creation coming face-to-face with magnificent angelic beings serving at the pleasure of Almighty God on mankind’s behalf. I’ve always felt rather incredulous as I read about these angel confrontations as they are described in the Word of God. Understatements like, “the angels appeared before them, and they were greatly afraid.” Or, “sorely afraid,” or “greatly terrified.”

I’m pretty sure the description of my reaction to an angel appearing before me would be loud and magnificent included adjectives would be necessary.

Talk about being ” in the moment.”

I find myself in a sudden moment of time that the emotive reality is and will be understated in my writing compared to my living it.

I have come to the bedside of my dying mother who finds herself neither here nor there in her present state of transitioning between life and that moment we call death. I’ve tried to be intimately empathic with mom in order to get some sense as to how it feels to be in this moment of captured time. Time between when a person really lives, vibrant, involved…empassioned in the very act of breathing and interacting among the living saints this side of Heaven. To that instant when God’s holy and terrifyingly majestic angels take a dead ones soul to the feet of the very one whom was sacrificed once for all, including Barabbas as a sort of firstfruit.

In clarity…my mom is somewhere in between, in transit if you will…caught unwillingly without the strength or will to live nor the capacity to hasten her aching heart toward an expedient delivery to her promised estate. I watch her lying helpless and afraid and sure and confident in that state of being no one is aware of until they live it at death.

It is both at once a terrible time in waiting for a magnificent moment of release. I ponder the reasons for delay. My reasons? I want to hang onto the woman I’ve only this year come to an understanding about who she really is. Her wit and candor…her resilient beliefs and faith in her destined outcome. Her ability to laugh and cry in the same moment of thought. I’ve come to see her strength which had been cleverly disguised by my dad’s long shadow. I’ve pondered who she must have been as that girl of 13 with the dreams and aspirations all young ladies most certainly have.

As I lay on her bed with my arms around this frail shell of my mom…does she feel the safe comfort that I felt as she drew me to herself when I was afraid as a child? Does she sense my fear of living without her or is her hesitancy to leave those she loves the reason she hangs on.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell her I’ll be ok without her…that it’s ok to let go of this life…perhaps. Or I will just tell her in this moment of transition that I’m at her side until the angels bid me farewell. I don’t know. I’ve never been here in this moment…present.

I know this: it is an incredulous understatement to calmly state that death is a process. It is terrifying and amazing! It is wonderful and uncertain! It is most assuredly grace and anxiety, sadness and peace.

Watching mom walk her final pathway to this certain end to start her beautiful eternity makes me cry, laugh, and sing and pray with unprecedented passion for life and death and in-the-moment in-between. Mom…I will cherish your final lesson to me of how to live while dying. P.S. Tell dad I really miss him.

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