Thursday, April 23, 2009

Absent From the Body...

...present with the Lord. I have often wondered over the years what Pat Peckham's memorial service would look like. I have pictured all the women and men who have been touched by and taught by her over the years filling the rows of the chapel and spilling out into the foyer and out the door. She was such a blessing, and even in the past few weeks as she lay dying she gave me wise counsel about a situation I was faced with. She told me that I wouldn't have to visit her for more than six months, letting me know that there was an end date in sight for the trouble of visitation. See the thing is it wasn't a bother or trouble for me to visit her. It was a privilege. I learned so much from her about how to live out my faith and she started me on the path of walking in freedom. She was always gentle and kind to me, even when she spoke hard truths.

When I think of her I think of lavender and white, pale aqua and blues, pastels and feminine without being too cutesy. Very elegant and dignified, she always dressed nicely and her hair was always lovely. She was such a gracious woman, though she would chasten you if you really needed it, but it was always done with gentleness and care.

My friend, my mentor and one of my "other mother's" went home today, just as she has been asking. I know her son's will grieve for her, as will her husband. She was a rock, and such an encouraging person. She adored her sons and spoke of them with such loving pride. The son closest in age to me, Jeff, always carried himself with such self-confidence, even at ages where no one is self-confident, he was. Though he was often disliked for it or mocked, as it was sometimes mistaken for arrogance or pride, he was friendly and I never saw him be unkind or looking down on anyone. I think that is because Pat instilled in her boys that she had total confidence in them. She placed a burden of trust on them, but also required them to do certain things to show care for her. In her lifetime, if she ever pumped her own gas, you would never get her to admit it. I don't think she ever did pump gas. If the tank ran out, she would call her husband or boys to come and get her and to take care of it. It was understood that gassing the vehicles was their job and if they drove the car they were to bring it back with enough gas in the tank so that she wasn't stranded. It was very old-fashioned of her, but for her it was a part of being cared for and ensuring that her boys understood that there are some things you did for your wife simply to show her your care.

I find it hard to imagine that either of her daughter-in-laws leave all the gas pumping to their menfolk, but there may be things that for them they do not wish to do because they are women and prefer not. I would imagine that Jeff and John were trained to understand and to take care of those things.

I cannot do justice to Pat here. I only know a part of her life, and while she shared stories with me over the years, I'm sure there are so many more that I do not know.

Mother's Day is coming up and will be bittersweet this year. I sometimes would bring Pat a card or a flower to commemorate her place in my heart, such as I would bring or send to my own mom. My children do not understand what happens in the heart of a mom when their kids remember them, so I have tried to busy myself and care for others on that day so that I don't let unfilled hopes ruin my day. I want to treasure what they DO, not spend time being upset with what they do not do. It isn't always easy, but I think Pat would approve of removing my expectations from them and living in a little place I like to call reality.

This is a bit rambling tonight, as I try to pull together the many thoughts I have running through my head. It's not easy to condense the tremendous impact Pat had on me in one small entry. What did she teach me? One, to relax a bit. Two, to be realistic and biblical about what I should expect from myself, from others and from God. Three, to be more real with others around me and not to pretend that things are okay when they are not. Four, to be less concerned about what others thought or their criticism, but to think instead about what I should do or shouldn't do, what I was designed and gifted for regardless of what others reaction might be. Five, that there are some things that you cannot change, and when you get to those, you better quit beating your head against a wall and wishing they were different. Live in the real world! Six, to be kinder to myself. Seven, that God loves me and is delighted by me. I didn't really grasp this very well, but I tried.

Oh and she taught me to patiently wait while God does what he wishes in our lives. We do not have to understand our trials, but we need to accept that they come from the hand of a loving God. Pat did not understand the long time she was forced to sit in a chair day after day, nor did she understand when she went into hospice, what she was doing laying there so helplessly. She didn't like those things, but she accepted them with grace. Not that she was perfect, but she trusted God no matter the hardship.

Her service will be in a few days and I wonder, will all the men and women she touched be there? Will they honor her with their time as she poured her time into them? Many will find themselves too busy, others will not see the point, some find funerals too uncomfortable and so they don't go, but I believe that we are taught differently. Ecclesiastes says that it is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of mirth because a wise men will take it to heart. A wise man will understand that the end of all men is the grave and will take it to heart. Many people avoid funerals and memorial services. Do they think that by turning away from it that they will avoid death in the end? Or do they love the foolish way they are spending their days so much that they do not wish to examine it? I couldn't tell you. My bible teacher shared this verse with me in high school and it has stayed with me all these years. When I have the opportunity to go to the funeral of a loved one or to the service of the loved one of a friend, I always go. I go for a few reasons. One, I believe that it is one concrete way you can show that you care. Two, I think it is a comfort to me to be in the company of others that loved the one I loved. Three, it does cause me to consider my life and the days I have left, and re-order my priorities. There are many pieces of equipment that require periodic recalibration. Funerals are one of the ways my spirit gets re-calibrated, that my choices are examined and my priorities get tweaked.

I am terribly conscious that I have fewer days ahead than I have behind. The choices I make are so important now, more than ever before. I am on the countdown side of things, on the downhill slope. If there is a chance to become a truly godly woman it is imperative that it be now. It cannot wait.

We all need the reminder of the death of a loved one to teach us to number our days rightly. I may not look it, but I am in the middle of my life. I have past the midpoint. My dear readers, please take the opportunity to decide how to spend the only life you have. Determine what is truly of worth and set your aim there. Yes there is a lot to juggle, but when you have your gaze set firmly on where you need to go, it does make it a bit easier to make choices. Well, I have gone on long enough this evening. I have passed midnight and am into Friday. Whew!

Please leave me a comment. I know there are some of you reading this, but I'm not hearing from you. If nothing else, please let me know who is reading. Since comments are moderated, just put a note in if you do not want your comment published. I understand. And...if this is of value to you to hear what is on my heart, please share these posts with others. Thank you very much for the time you are giving to my words.

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