Anyway, a week ago yesterday our family gathered to celebrate the brief life of one of our niece's son, Benjamin Allen Peays, who was born prematurely while his parents were on the mission field and passed away after just a few days of life. His parents, John and Courtney, were passing through town on their way to Denver, and we had an open house for friends and family to meet and comfort them.
On that Sunday, Beth's mom went to church, took John and Courtney to lunch, and then came to our home with her usual bunch of baked goods for the gathering. She wasn't here long before Beth realized that she wasn't doing too well. Mom has been suffering from overian cancer for some time, and was in her second round of chemo... it has been a hard summer for her. But you generally never knew that there was an issue with her - she rarely complained about anything.
Beth took Mom upstairs to rest while the event continued. By mid-evening, all had gone and Beth drove Mom home. As we sat together in Mom's condo, Beth said that she would wait with her mom, who "wasn't doing well".
To make a long story short, we had no idea how bad it was for Mom at the time. Into the hospital that evening, surgery the next day (followed quickly by the news that nothing could be done), the wondering if she would even regain consciousness, the shock of imminent loss and the reality of the finality of death came much too quickly.
God greatly blessed us over the next two days with Mom's recovery of consciousness and removal from life support. All of her kids made it in to town to talk with he (along with most of her grand children!) and Beth had opportunity for some final conversation, hugs, tears, thanks and goodbyes before Mom slipped away peacefully on Wednesday morning. "Precious" - in fact - "in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Ps. 116:15)
I still wrestle with getting my mind around the enormity of the problem of death. The violent, unnatural rending of body and soul - the heartbreak of final separation... the finality of it from a human perspective. It is ironic that the more successful one's life in what really counts, the harder the loss is to bear.
I saw how Mom lived her life for over 22 years. I can honestly say that she was more "like Jesus" than almost anyone I have ever known. Her loss is magnified in our home by the extraordinarily close relationship she had with Beth - she was close to all of the kids, but through proximity, gender and a unique care-giving role, Beth had crossed the line from "daughter" to "friend". June left many of them behind, and while she's present with the Lord, the vacancy she left is a hard to imagine. Beth spoke about this so eloquently at the memorial service on Saturday.
But June left behind a legacy to follow, like so many have done before her. I'll never forget a sermon I heard - probably 25 years ago - about the "gallery of faith" from Hebrews 11... how all around, those listed and those faithful - like June - who have gone before us stand and watch, calling to us to press on and keep going... they ran the race, they finished the course, the kept the faith.
In a world that focuses too much sometimes on good beginnings, the Bible calls us to good endings... to finishing well. There may not be books written about Elizabeth June Victoria Curtin Allen but, along with those who knew her, I can only hope that in some way my life will reflect the same type of faithfulness that her's demonstrated... through good and bad, gain and loss, sorrow and joy, and walking though the valley of the shadow of death. It is true that
"only one life, 'twill soon be passed... only what's done for Christ lasts."
Almost no one may read this... but Mom, we're proud of you. We love you. We'll miss you. And as your son Dave said on Saturday, we'll do our best to follow your example. Beth said it for all of us when she said
"... Thank you, Lord, for such a great lady - such a great Mom. You have blessed us abundantly for giving her to us. What a gift - what a treasure - what a mom!"