There was yet another death in our community when my daughter-in-law Vickie’s aunt Janis passed away. It was not unexpected as she had been sick for a long time and spent the last week in the hospital. If Vickie attended the funeral of her special aunt Janis, who was her age and who lived next door during their childhoods, it meant Vickie had to drive up from Georgia. Gerry was tied up with weekend classes, and Tara was tied down with little boys and bad weather in northern Illinois and Erin with final exams in Texas. But Vickie and Geri Ann got up at 3 a.m. and made it to yesterday’s 11 o’clock funeral. Tonight they are back home again after the seven-hour return drive.
Because of the deaths, difficulties, diseases, and seasonal illnesses, almost everyone I know is stressed right now. They are not over extended because of poor planning nor excessive shopping or foolishness, but rather they are challenged simply by the problems of life—health problems, grief work, lost jobs, children in the military in Iraq, and other difficulties that really have nothing to do with season but which, nevertheless, make the season and its traditional observances more complicated to enjoy. With loved ones’ health problems weighing heavily on my mind, I have been fighting fear.
Even though I had gone to bed early the night before to avoid oversleeping, I woke late Friday morning and consequently had an inefficient and confusing start to my day. I overslept because when I woke up at 3 a.m., I lay awake for much too long thinking of Janis’ death and wondering if everyone was going to be all right and how I would get through what I wanted to attend to that day. When I finally got back to sleep at dawn, I did not wake up as usual.
In addition to chores and necessary activities, there were two Christmas events that I wanted to participate in on Friday. Neither of them were crucial to me or anyone else if I missed, but I had looked forward to both gatherings and knew the hostesses had worked hard to prepare for us, and I hoped to be at them both.
Some things did not get done. Time for a belated INR that had been my priority for the day became unnecessary when I was told at the doctor’s office that they were out of the usual supplies to perform that test. That had never happened before. Since I was there, however, I was able to explain in person to the clinic receptionist that I had just gone by the pharmacy and a prescription I had taken in over a week before was still not filled. The pharmacy said the doctor’s office had not responded to give a refill. I was out of the medicine that was important to take. (There had been a computer mix up on another prescription, and I figured somehow this prevented the request from ever getting to the clinic.) The receptionist assured me I would have the refill called in with a rush order before the weekend.
With that concern taken care of, I was quickly out of the clinic and on to my daughter’s to see how she was getting along after her surgery. Her aides have been sick this week, but her dad had gone in and gotten from bed and into her chair. Now she was at the computer trying to get some paper work done before a physical therapist was soon to arrive. Sam was home from school with a cold, so she had company. So I left with good feelings that she was all taken care of and knowing I would have interfered with her work if I had stayed longer.
Without an appointment, I could not get my hair done without a wait, so I had earlier saved time by skipping that. Now I powdered my nose and pulled a brush through my hair, and I had perfect timing to meet up with other club members at the library to car pool out to the Christmas party at David and Jackie Hancock’s rural home. I threw everything from the front of the car into the trunk, so I could offer to drive others although I did not know the way to the home. Again, plans changed. Pearl, one of our oldest members, had gotten the directions and was inviting people to ride with her, and she seemed to want to drive, so I climbed in with her.
As it turned out, the directions given her were not expressed with complete accuracy, so we had an adventure getting there, but we had fun. She made it clear she could stay calm because she had her cell phone to get the corrections needed. She did and we were not late. Riding there and back and getting acquainted with her was one of the special blessings I had that day.
I asked about her children, and she told me stories about her son’s experiences in Viet Nam, which could only be described as miracles. My own fears seemed petty as I listened to what this man had gone through as he strove to save his men from harm’s way. As we drove home, I was somewhat surprised at the time on her clock, which meant the afternoon meeting had lasted too long for me to attend the evening party, so I accepted that was what was supposed to be. Actually, she had not set her car clock back when time changed on November 1, so I did have time to fix Gerald a sandwich, brush my hair once more, and head off to the second party that day.
As I walked into the next gathering of the women of our church at Jo Barger’s house, I suddenly realized for probably the last five years it has been my responsibility to bring song books and have hymns picked out; but with all that had gone on last week, I had not even thought about it.
Then my second thought was this was our Christmas gathering. The hostess has the booklets with the words of carols and Christmas songs typed up decades ago and carefully stored at her house. Traditionally we just sing as long as someone has another request to make. I relaxed, and because I was one of the last ones to arrive, I ended up able to sit by Jo’s 44-year-old collection of tiny skiers and skaters displayed on cotton snow and an ice pond made from a mirror. Jo told me it had been bought for her older son’s first Christmas. This is a favorite display that I look forward to each year.
After our singing, Kimberly chose as the theme for her devotional “Fear not.” She first asked us what was the most used commandment in the Bible and most of us thought it was to love. Evidently someone counted and found more commandments telling us not to be afraid. It made sense that if we have faith in God, we can know that no matter what happens or how bad it is, we can depend on Him to see us through it just as Pearl’s son had done in Viet Nam. As Kim read the familiar story from Luke, we envisioned the fear the shepherds felt when the angels appeared out there in the dark of the countryside, and we felt their relief when the angel commanded them to fear not. We were made to realize anew that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.
(Upon different occasions my past, I have prayed to see a flying saucer with aliens and also to see winged angels, but I always knew if God answered those particular prayers, I would know great fear. Maybe that is why the prayer was not answered, although I think I may have interacted with angels dressed as humans and never knew it. In fact, if God sent first Pearl and then Kim into my life on Friday with messages I needed, they may have been such angelic messengers.)
After our business meeting, we always go into Jo’s family room with lighted tree and warm fireplace to open presents and let those with secret sisters try to guess who they are.
While our beloved Zella was in the hospital for her final stay, she was made sure that her present for her secret sister would be delivered to Jo’s house. Jo had invited Zella’s daughter Donna and daughter-in-law Becky, who are precious to us as they both have attended many functions as guests of Zella. Donna opened Zella’s final gift from her secret sister and Charlene opened Zella’s delivered gift to her. There were tears wiped away, but they were joyful tears for the love Zella shared with all of us.
Although none of my concerns had changed, I came home and slept well knowing I had been commanded to fear not.
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