We learned today that a neighbor and friend had passed away after a valiant fight with cancer.
We had the privilege of getting to know his family when we were going to the same church. Erik and I had the privilege of really getting to know his youngest son through the youth group.
My heart just aches for his family - I know they were expecting his passing, but I know the hurt is not lessened by the knowing.
My heart aches for his wife - a lovely woman who is just so caring and kind. His oldest son, with Downs Syndrome, who vacuums houses for ladies from the church. His daughter who will have to finish this semester of college grieving her father. And his youngest son, a senior in high school, who is such a wonderful young man that I hope my boys grow up to be half as wonderful as him, and who now has to finish this most special year of high school without his dad. I know that it provides some comfort to his family that he was a faithful believer and has no doubt been welcomed to Heaven. As someone who has lost a loved one, however, I know it provides comfort knowing that He is in a better place, but that fact will not lessen the despair they feel with him gone from their everyday human lives. I struggle with what exactly to pray for his family. So I turned to scripture and found:
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."
So I am relying on the Holy Spirit tonight, to intercede for me, to offer the prayers that are needed, to touch the souls of those in despair, to provide whatever comfort is needed.
I admired the parenting skills of this couple for years. Going to the same church, we got to watch their interaction with their children, much older than our own, and we'd often talk about how we hoped we would be able to handle the dramas, traumas, joys and sorrows of parenting with as much confidence, love and FAITH as they did.
In my former career, I dealt a lot with troubled youth, and I always said to myself that when I encountered parents doing a great job, I would tell them what a great job they were doing because the kids were a reflection of that. It was only natural then, that one day I got to talking to our friend and told him he and his wife should write a parenting book because I just adored their kids and it was my sincerest hope that my children would grow up to be such kind and responsible teens. I asked him what advice he had for us and his reply was "you just got to stay on them, Jen. Be strict with them about the important stuff and maybe they won't like it, but it will let them know they are loved. When you're hard on them when they are young, they know better than to try anything when they're older and you can have a great relationship." I think about that a lot as I'm parenting when I wonder if I'm being too hard on my kids. But then I remember his advice, I see how his kids are turning into productive, interesting young adults, and I heed his advice. I picture his family, as they interacted in church and how they so obviously love each other and I know that love will sustain them as they grieve.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:7-8
Love one another.