The storm yesterday seemed much too appropriate and ironic to be appreciated. It started a few days ago with the winds blowing from an unfamiliar direction, revealing to us that ‘something’ was coming. Winds from the southeast are always an indication of unsettling atmospheric conditions. The force that traveled through was unstoppable and nerve-racking. The helplessness that accompanies those heavy gales is paralyzing. I watched from the shelter of my home as my new baby tree was being whipped about. I groaned from behind the safety of my window as I saw the awning of our swing being shred to pieces. I reacted with shock and surprise as our pool was lifted off the ground and hurled over the privacy fence. I grimaced as I heard the siding being ripped from the house, exposing it to the ferocious wind and water to come. And come it did…
Once the tears started, cessation was impossible. I haven’t felt this kind of loss since my father died 15 years ago. This sensation of grief is on an entirely different plane.
I was a teenager when my dad died after 8 days in the hospital, waiting for a heart transplant. (He was a diabetic, and by the time he felt enough pain to go the ER, his heart had already deteriorated to 25%. One of the nasty side effects of diabetes is neuropathy, a condition where your nervous system is diseased and does not react to pain. Dad was moved from #14 on the national heart waiting list to #1. He had 2 hearts come into the hospital – the first one too badly damaged from a car accident, the second ended up containing cancer. After 8 days, he lost the battle for his life.) I was very young, and only knew Dad as a ‘weekend visit’ or ‘holiday break’. After we moved from New Mexico to Wyoming, the weekend visits had even come to a halt. Anyway, my point is, I was young and only knew Dad on a fairly superficial level.
Rhonda started out as a ‘mother-in-law’, as she was Jeremy’s second mom. Jeremy had dated their oldest daughter in high school, then the daughter’s best friend in college (yeah, he was a playa’). Boyd and Rhonda introduced him to Christ, and loved him as a son. When Jeremy wanted to propose, Rhonda was the one he called 4 times when he was buying my ring. “What should I get her?” “What will she like?” “Am I spending too much?” “Am I spending enough?”. She was bombarded with questions that day! It took me a while to warm up to her. I felt kind of odd having married her daughter’s ex-boyfriend. I assumed she wouldn’t like me for that reason alone. Of course, over the course of the next few months, I grew to love her. Our son was their first ‘grandchild’, though not by blood. They always opened their hearts and arms to him as though he was. Papa Boyd and Grandma Rhonda were his favorite people to be with. 10 years later, when Papa and Grandma come into church, he leaves Mom and Dad, and even friends, to sit with them.
I used to tell Jeremy that Rhonda was the perfect balance of a mother and mother-in-law. She was caring enough to ask about our lives and want to be part of our lives, yet she never intruded. That was definitely one of the perks to not being her actual children! We had the benefits, but none of the disadvantages.
Right now, it feels very odd and awkward to be on the outside. I don’t want to impose on the family’s time of planning Rhonda’s funeral, yet I don’t want to wait until then to see Papa. I had a voicemail last night telling me when the funeral was and would I please bring a salad or dessert for the reception? I already knew when the funeral was, as we talk to Boyd throughout the day. It felt like a knife in the heart to be expected to bring a food item to the funeral. Not that I can’t make a simple batch of cookies or a nice pasta salad, for crying out loud! But to be on the outside… We are not part of their family. We were a part of Boyd and Rhonda, but not their daughters. We were welcome into their home as family, but only until their daughter and grandkids moved in after a divorce. It’s been different since then. I never wanted to add to the chaos by having us and the kids stop in. It feels strange to be on the outside, especially now. What am I to do with this heartache?
Like our house, my heart has been exposed to the elements. Unexpected sorrow enters in with the pain, the anguish, the agony of having lost such a good friend and a woman whom we loved as a mom and grandma. The forceful winds gust through my soul and shake my sense of comfort. Rhonda was always available to talk to, ask advice of, and share life with. Granted, there was always a line to access such, but that’s only because of who she was and who she represented. She was a picture of Christ, inside and out. With all of her physical persecution, she still continued to work as hard as her body would allow her. She was committed to her husband, her home and her daughters. She put everyone else first, loving others more than herself. She very seldom complained of her ailments, even though she has been plagued with illness and injury for years.
I’m so very grateful and excited for her; for the fact that she is in God’s glory as I write this, and is without pain and suffering and tears. I’m so very broken and lamentable for what we have all lost as a friend, a sister, a mother, a daughter and a wife. The world is a lesser place for having lost such a remarkable human being and an incredible example of God’s love.