Friday, September 9, 2011

"I Loved Her Very Much"

Today he laid a rose on her coffin.

Today he said goodbye to her for the last time on earth.

Today Wes laid the body of his beloved Leona to rest.

Dad and I met him at the church: "Have you seen Leona?" he said, startling me for a moment until I realized he was talking to Dad about the viewing. They walked slowly to the front of the coffin and stood there together, the one man silently welcoming the other to the awful club that has a single criterion for admission.

Dad placed his right hand on Leona's right hand - that hand still whispering the story of bruising IVs and collapsed veins and long suffering - and Wes slipped his right hand into Dad's left one.

"I might have failed her, many times, but not once did she fail me," he murmured. "But I loved her very much." 

The sun beat down on the cemetery. There would be no relief from the searing heat today. They gathered together as one, Wes' and Leona's family did. Their son anchored himself next to his dad, who never lifted his eyes from the coffin that glowed golden in the hot blue of the day. The four girls stood nearby.

Scripture was read. A hymn was sung. Words were spoken, words of comfort, words of assurance.

Dad, Neil and Wes, all who have said
Goodnight, not Goodbye
to their loves
And Wes kept guard, just as he had for so many nights, so many months now.

After lunch the solemn procession made its way to the front of the church. Wes had written a tribute to his beloved, which their son read for him:

"As Proverbs 31 verse 10 says, 'Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above jewels.'  This is Leona. She is worthy of what I say ... She has been most precious to me ... I have loved her dearly ... She stood by me through thick and thin ... 

"She was faithful ...

"She was forgiving ...

"She was willing: I would ask her to do something and she would always say, 'Just a minute,' and leave what she was doing. She was always at my side. We worked as a team.

"She was humble ...

"She was not only a jewel, she was a rare jewel. The Bible says that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Our treasure is in Heaven today."

Dad spoke from Psalm 19, one of Leona's favourite passages in the Bible. His message was entitled Leona's Preparation for September 4, 2011. This Psalm divides into three little sections. 

The first talks about God's revelation from the heavens: "The heavens declare the glory of God ..." Even if there are no words spoken, humankind can feel the presence of God through nature, through the constellations.

The second section talks about God's revelation through His Word, the Bible: "The law of the Lord is perfect ... sure ... right ... pure ... clean ... true and righteous altogether."

The third section is a prayer, culminating with these words:  "...Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (verse 14).

Dad said that Leona had been preparing for years for September 4, 2011, by learning this passage of scripture by heart and by keeping it in her heart. "Your death does not change the direction of your life," he cautioned. Leona took to heart these words and here is how she responded:

For the first part, she had a relationship with God. When she was young, she gave her heart and her life to God. Secondly, she loved His Word. And thirdly, she pursued holiness, pursued God. Verses 11 and 12 exclaim that we cannot always know even ourselves, and the psalmist asks God to preserve him from errors, secret faults and presumption.

I am Your servant, he says to God in verses 11 and 13, and You are my strength (rock). And You are my redeemer, the last word having the same idea of kinsman-redeemer who, like Boaz in the wonderful love story of Ruth, purchases and frees his beloved. 

This is how Leona lived, Dad, said. She spoke the words, but the truth of them lived deep in her heart. She was God's servant and He was her strength.

Wes had mentioned that he had said to Leona on one of those last days, "If Jesus calls you, be sure to go."

And she did.

Now she is in the presence of the One she loves even more than Wes, and we can release her to Him, triumphantly, as she echoes the words of the Queen of Sheba, "The half was not told to me!"

Wes comforted by his great grandchildren 


  1. "Your death does not change the direction of your life." Possibly the most profound quote I've heard, pulling me to deep reflection. Thank you for sharing it. God be with these stalwart men who have lost their loves but not their love.

  2. poignant for this weekend we sat in vigil over a body whose spirit has been freed of her pain & suffering ... as we comfort her husband and sons in their own pain of loss

  3. Thinking about your friends this evening, Sylvia. We can't be sorry for the departed one, who is finally free of pain and suffering; but oh, for those who remain, how heartbreaking it is indeed!

  4. Tears stream down my face and I write this. It's been almost a year since Mom went to be with Jesus. It's been a very lonely one for my Dad. Just this morning he said Mom would be the very first person he wants to see in heaven. She will be standing right beside Jesus waiting for him. He won't have to look for her at all.
    Thank you for your kind words and the memories that those photos bring to the surface. I am so blessed to have been raised in a godly christian home.
    Life is not the same without her. Heaven is sweeter.


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