Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Check-Bearing Duck.
Visited By Sadness.

Ahhh. A great night's sleep in my very own bed. I am one happy (and rested) woman! Also, we have zero miles to travel today which makes me even happier.

It seems really strange that this is the last week Steve and I will ever have two teenagers. We got to be the parents of teenagers (plural) for only two years, starting when Sarah turned thirteen. And now Nathan is vamoosing from Teen World and is taking himself off to to the Land of the Twenties. How did that happen!

Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you hold on, your children wriggle right out of the grasp of your parental fingers and take them themselves away to adulthood? It's an amazing, sad, pride-producing, heartbreaking phenomenon.

But anyway, on to the birthday dinner of my "wriggling out of my fingers" man child.

Before we got started cooking, I snapped this shot of Meagan holding her computer which displays a desktop picture of Nathan looking especially handsome. What a cute couple!

As the birthday food was being prepared, Steve and Meagan's dad, Frank, sat outside and compared notes on life. They're both pastors, former traveling ministers, parents of college students, and all around great buds. They're also both very funny, so they have quite a time together.

Meagan's uber talented sister, Kristen, came up with the table decorations. Very Nathan-ish, don't you think?

Meagan and Kristin also spent quite a bit of time decorating the chair that Nathan would sit in at dinner. I think they did very well to make it as masculine and macho as possible.

Meagan's brother-in-law, John, was the guy in charge of grilling the chicken. Cooking is one of his many gifts, in addition to being an excellent mechanic and accomplished pianist.

Nathan told John that he wanted his piece to be really spicy. Here is his special serving with hot sauce slathered everywhere. He loved it.

Unfortunately, I neglected to bring the Famous Smith Birthday Hat from home so the Hawley family improvised. Can you see how "thrilledness" is oozing out of Nathan's every pore while Kristin puts the newly designed birthday hat on his head? Poor guy.

This is Joy, the Hawley sister who is married to John. They are graduates of Southeastern (where Nathan attends) and the youth pastors at Frank and Sheri's church.

This is Frank.

He is the brave man who has spent his entire living with four women who, in the space of five minutes, can produce more fun and energy and sparkle than I could in a whole lifetime.

One of the best things about the evening (besides the great food, pink chair, and lovely birthday hat) was being able to tell all sorts of road stories and know that everyone else completely understood. I mean, how crazy wonderful is it that Nathan's girlfriend "just happens" to be from a family who spent five years traveling full time, singing, preaching, doing home school and living in an RV?

We talked about getting RVs stuck in muddy church lawns, and RV hoses freezing in the middle of the winter, and blowing up TVs and microwaves in the RV when we hooked up the electricity wrong, and all sorts of stories replete with road life lore. It was such a great feeling to be with people who truly understand that unique lifestyle.

After the meal, it was time for the gifts. Our family presented Nathan with a classy quacking "lighting up" duck. Nathan thought it was quite wonderful.

He thought it was even more wonderful when he saw that there was a check rolled up inside the little key chain on the duck and the check was made out to him. College Dudes love checks. He now also loves ducks, especially when ducks come bearing checks.

Sarah spent her own money and carefully selected some snack foods for him that she knew he loved. He was especially delighted with those gifts since it seems that his dorm room had grown woefully short of those important items.

Here is the line up of Hawley family gifts which included a new tie, a gas card , a DVD and a couple other things my 47-year old brain can't remember.

Can you tell that the Hawley family is very good at spoiling people rotten?

And just to prove that point even further, Meagan even had a late birthday gift for Sarah.

Sour candy, one of her favorites.

A t-shirt that says, "True Original." That describes Sarah perfectly.

Before bed, we posed for one more picture so that the Glorious Birthday Hat (now slightly deflated) could be modeled and admired once more.

Nathan stayed overnight too, so that we would have a chance to see him a little longer. Here he is, being admired by all the women in his life.

After all the joyful partying of the evening was over, we were quite unexpectedly visited by sadness.

We had already gone to bed when Frank got a call from a church member saying that his wife was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. Frank immediately left for the hospital and called back home a little while later saying that the woman's heart had stopped and she couldn't be revived.

She was about my age.

She had three daughters: an eleven year old and twin 15-year olds.

That hits pretty close to home.

Frank brought the three girls back home with him at about 1 am, in order to give their dad a chance to deal with the things that needed to be taken care of in the aftermath of his wife's death. (The husband had friends who stayed there with him.)

I must say that I haven't met very many pastoral families who are any better at rising to the occasion and ministering to hurting people than the Hawleys; they each did their part to lovingly minister to those suddenly bereaved daughters. They found clothes for them to sleep in, made up beds in the living room, hugged them, listened to them talk, and became "God with skin on" to those girls. Since Nathan was staying overnight, he also got a chance to spend time with the girls and show his special brand of "Nathan compassion." (Which included offering some food from his newly acquired "dorm room stash" when the girls wouldn't eat anything else.)

You may remember I posted yesterday that we tried to get up early yesterday and sneak out the door before breakfast? Well, the reason for that sort of "odd behavior" was this particular situation. We knew that Frank and Sheri had their hands more than full already and we wanted to try and simplify life for them just a little by taking ourselves away early in the morning.

But true to form, they were on top of the situation and their "giving hearts" were still working overtime. They moved the three girls from the living room to a bedroom so that they could get some extra rest. Then Sheri (with a little help) proceeded to whip up a delicious breakfast for nine people which featured pancake, grits, juice, eggs, and bacon.

After a little while, the three girls woke up and filed out into the living room together, looking brave and bewildered and exhausted. My heart just went out to them as I tried to picture my own daughter in their shoes.

I was so comforted to know that they and their dad would be taken very good care of by the Hawleys and their extended church family. It won't take the pain away, but it will make their journey through the valley of the shadow of death a bit more bearable.

And you know what? It's situations like that which give churches a good name. People always hear so much about failing pastors, fighting churches and religious schisms of all varieties. What doesn't get the press is when a church surrounds a grieving family and makes a whole world of difference to them in the midst of their sorrow.

We are so proud to call the Hawleys our friends and are incredibly inspired by their commitment to make a difference in the lives of those around him--whether it's providing a joyful, memorable birthday evening for the Smith family, or extending love and healing to three motherless girls and their dad. Everything they do is done with joy and love and excellence and we are the better for getting to be their friends.

If you think about it this week, would you please be praying for that family whose lives were ripped apart so suddenly and so irrevocably? I know I will.

And I know I also remember to be especially grateful every day that Sarah still has a mom. And that I still have a daughter. It's hard to even imagine that bond being broken.

Most of all this week, I will simply be thankful for life. What a gift it is and how quickly it can be taken away.

Treasure your day, treasure the people you love, treasure every breath you're given.

None of us is promised tomorrow.


I've been asked by a few people what Nathan's address is at college this year.

Nathan Smith
Southeastern University
1000 Longfellow Blvd.
Box 1701 (Make sure you just put "Box" and not "PO Box")
Lakeland, FL 33801

3 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

MaryH said...

You have said it all. My heart is broken for those young girls and their father. I will certainly pray for them and remember them when I think I may be missing something - because I truly am not. Thank you, Becky.

Ann Martin said...

Our prayers go out to that family. I know with my Daddy's homegoing almost 6 weeks ago I can relate and yet cannot because I am much older than those girls. I have much to be thankful for and try to remember that each day. So glad you had a great time. Thanks for Nathan's address.

Anonymous said...

What a heartbreaking and yet poignant scene. Bless you for remininding us about how moments of complete human tragedy allow us to see human strength.

GS in Canada