Saying Goodbye

This week, I realized a few things. Can you believe it was almost 20 years ago when we had to decide if we wanted to leave Japan, where we felt we had “grown up”, and move to continue working with Japanese in far, far away Australia. It was such a difficult decision that often I would get in the car, crank up the CD player and bawl my eyes out, listening to the then popular melody by Hillsong Australia, “The Power of Your Love”

One of the lines always jumped out at me, causing me to join in and yell out my grief with the lyrics,  “Hold me Close, Let your Love surround me!”  (I realize as I type this that it sorta sounds like a country western song), but this one is directed toward the Lord of our universe, of whom we occasionally need to be reminded of His love for us.  Here’s a link if you’re not familiar with the song.

Last week our inarguably best friend here in Australia died.  He was a young 70 but unfortunately, thru gross misdiagnosis, he only knew he was sick for a couple of months and didn’t really feel the cancer that was taking him out until the last few days. Thankfully, his suffering was minimized, and we’ve got Alan’s wife, Beth, to credit for a lot of that. As a qualified nurse, she was right there at his side, making sure he was comfortable, staying in close touch with his doctors and staff, and knowing when it was time to call the family (in which she included us).

The last time we chatted with him, he was sitting up in his hospital bed and we discussed the differences between a ‘shovel’ and a ‘spade’, never imagining he would be gone in 24 hours.

That was Alan.  Quiet, non-obtrusive and humble to a fault, but all the while absolutely engaged with what was going on, especially when it came to the needs of people around him. As a certified electrician as well as a “handyman’s handyman” and accomplished administrator, he was always in demand: at our house, the church, anywhere we needed understanding or fixing.  Never waiting to be asked to do something, he just seemed to ‘sense’ when things were awry and before you knew it, he had them working again, whether it be mechanical, emotional or spiritual.

We had his ‘Celebration’ service this week, and it was standing room only. One couple even made their way back in from a camping trip two days into the Outback. Driving at 4:00 in the morning (a risky proposition in that part of the world), they hit a kangaroo and barely made it into town in one piece, but agreed that they wouldn’t have missed it.

Just as everyone was gathered in the church, the sanctuary lights began flickering and practically everyone murmured in one voice, “Oh, where’s Alan? We need him!”

The music began, and I immediately became totally unraveled. You guessed it, “The Power of your Love”…….Who would have thought that God would have let that song be picked, selfishly, I believe, just for me?  As I stood there, fighting back tears, and just wanting to cry out, “WHY?”….. I realized that the last time I remember singing this song, 20 years ago, I was feeling many of the same emotions. God really did wrap His arms around us back then, and it was no less evident now. Today I am SO SO thankful for two adult children with wonderful spouses and beautiful children of their own and most importantly, a love for the Lord that continues to sustain us all when we need Him most.

It has come back to me especially this week that none of us know really how much time we have in this life. When we retired and settled here, God provided good friends and we imagined “growing old” with them.
Tony always preaches that as long as you have a pulse, God has a purpose for you here on earth.  I guess Alan had accomplished what he was meant to do, but it’s going to be tough living without his pulse around here. It’s only in knowing he’s joined so many others who have gone before and is now at peace with our Savior that we’re able to carry on.
And so it’s with sad hearts that we enter this Christmas season… a time that should be the happiest time of all. But it’s less sad, knowing that because of Christ’s birth, we really do have a reason to rejoice after all.
On that happy note, we did have to smile as we watched our grandboys perform in their school Christmas programs.  Little Micah, only just two, stole the show with his dancing…….he takes after his daddy.   All three boys are officially on their summer break of seemingly innumerable weeks, so we’re looking forward to not having time for too much sadness.
In the words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us All”

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