Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Unhidden Love

I went to a funeral on Monday morning.

On Thursday, February 18, the loving husband of the beautiful lady who passed away wrote, "Jan's condition has taken a turn the last 12-24 hours....this could be the best day of Jan's life... Pray it is."

His prayer was heard and answered. At 1:15 pm that afternoon, she went home.

This couple has attended our church for years and has raised a beautiful family of 3 children. They have an older son, Jeff, who is handicapped and lives at Timber Ridge (our church "home for the handicapped") here in Morton. They also have a daughter, who happens to be my oldest sister's best friend. She is married with children. And they have another son, who is also married with children.

Jan found out that she had lung cancer at the beginning of December. It had already progressed to stage 3B at that point, and from that point on, only continued to get worse.

At the end of December, she was still feeling and looking pretty good. Her daughter-in-law called our Imagine Artists office and asked if we would be willing to take a family picture before she started to go into vigorous treatments. Kristi and I were honored to do this, and we scheduled to take the pictures inside my sister's house the next week.

One goal that Kristi and I have for our business is to be a blessing to others through what we love to do. If we can be there for someone in need, we will. I personally feel like pictures are an important part of remembering times, remembering life, and remembering the ones we love. It's a snapshot in time that is locked away forever; a visual of something or someone that you can now never forget.

I went through the visitation line before the funeral on Monday morning. My mom was honored to be able to help make a beautiful scarf that wrapped around her head. The day before, she had chosen a few different fabrics and let the family decide on which one to use. It looked wonderful on her. I saw the tears in the eyes of everyone who loved this woman and felt it in their hugs.

Her daughter, Jody, told me that the pictures ended up coming in perfect timing. Shortly after they were taken, she started to decline. She placed the order for the pictures a week before she passed away. They came in very quickly; the next day, she framed the pictures and set them out in her mom's room to enjoy, and the next day, she went to Heaven.

It's amazing to see how perfectly God times everything.

Jan's brother-in-law had the funeral service. It was extremely touching. He spoke to each and every family member, including Jan's grandchildren, by name. He looked at Jeff, and said, "Jeff, you may not know this, but you have touched more people than you realize." He continued to talk about how he has been an amazing ministry with his life. Later, another minister, who works at Timber Ridge, stood up and talked.

"I'd like to share a story about what happened last Thursday evening," he began. He talked about how every Thursday night, he is part of a bible study at Timber Ridge. But this bible study is special in that everyone who attends is in a wheelchair. He told us that the man who leads this study can hardly talk in a way in which you can understand him, but he ALWAYS rolls in with a plan. On this particular evening, he came in a bit sad. News of Jan's death had spread and everyone had found out. He said, "I am really going to miss her."

The minister agreed, and they both sat and recounted how on Friday afternoons, Jan would come into Timber Ridge, bright-eyed and smiling, excited and ready to pick up her son to include in whatever activities were planned for the afternoon. Their relationship was so special.

"We don't know what you're thinking, Jeff," is something the first minister had shared, "But one thing we do know, is the love you had for your mom. That wasn't hidden."

I can remember going to church every Sunday and seeing them sit together, with Jeff rubbing her shoulders and looking lovingly at her. He was right. This love was something you don't find just anywhere, and it definitely wasn't hidden. A thought I had just now is this: Do we have this kind of love for Christ, and is it "unhidden" to others?

The story continued about the bible study. The minister shared that in that very evening, he read a verse from Revelation about the joy of Heaven. Then, when it was time to pray, he said that he himself would have the prayer.

"He'll often ask me to pray," he said, "But tonight, he did it. And do you know what? He prayed for the family of Jan, and John, he prayed for you by name," he shared. "This man who could hardly speak in an understandable tone prayer for YOU by name on Thursday night, and you didn't even know it."

John is Jan's husband.

Another thought that was shared is that when this first happened, the minister (brother-in-law) saw John go from shock, to determination (we're going to fix this problem), to acceptance and surrender. No one wanted this to happen or understood why it did, but in hindsight, God had a bigger plan, and part of that plan was the amazing ministry that came from it all through the journal that was shared, the family that was brought together, and the love & care that God grew in everyone who took care of Jan.

I'll close with words that her obituary shared about her...

"Jan adored spending time with her husband and family. Her primary ministry which she did so well during this life was loving and caring for Jeff, their handicapped son. Jan ran the race of life so well by God’s grace, and even though she lost the battle to cancer, she’s won and received the ultimate prize."

You can visit our blog and see pictures in the tribute post here.

Love you all! Keep praying & lifting other up.


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