Within the last few months, I have lost four friends. While I am sad to lose these precious friends and will miss them, I take comfort in knowing they are with the Lord now and at perfect peace because they trusted Him.
My thoughts of them this morning are the loneliness they felt in different ways, and the loneliness experienced by those they left behind. Being alone is a fear I must confess is frightening to me. I talk to the Lord about it frequently and am always comforted by His Word. Sometimes people are alone by choice and I myself enjoy my solitary moments. It is easy for me to be alone with "just me." But the knowledge that my love is near, I can call out to him, go put my arm around him, feel his hugs, enjoy his kisses, sit with him for a meal together, go out with him, that is always available to me.
My fear stems from when my first husband passed unexpectedly, and I was left alone. Alone in a quiet house, alone in my bed, no one to share the events of the day, the joys, the sadness, the frustrations.
Our friend, Joe, was a happy and very fulfilled man, with a sweet wife of 45 years and children and grandchildren. He was a man who lived life to the fullest. His aloneness in the last few months of his life were caused by ALS, which rendered him helpless and unable to communicate verbally or physically. Although his wife was his constant companion, the loneliness I am talking about is a being alone with yourself in a way I can't describe. His passing has left his wife in that "alone" state of wondering "what now?" She has support from friends and family, but there is nothing like being with someone for all those years and suddenly not being with them. We go from being comfortable where we are to having to find our place again.
Our friend, Kevin was and had been a single man for many, many years. He had friends and family, but he was alone when he found out he had cancer. He wanted no treatment at all, he simply wanted to be with Jesus, and so, in a matter of weeks, we said good-bye to him.
My friends, Ramona and Ken, were married for 45 years also. (What is with that number?) As a young woman, she had been divorced, devastated by her husband deserting her with three children. When she met Ken, he was alone, a bachelor, and he fell in love with her and her family and made them his. Their love was deep, but about ten years or so ago, Ken began the "dark journey of dementia" as my friend describes it. Ramona worked hard through those years because the long term care required for him was expensive and was eating up what they had saved for retirement. At 70, she was exhausted from trying to make ends meet, be caregiver, and had been ill herself off and on. Then, her oldest son was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away about two years ago. She took it so hard, and my last conversation with her, she was inconsolable over that loss and the fear of losing her beloved husband. She was weary, grieving over her son, and also the possibility of losing her little dog who was her little buddy and companion at home. She isolated herself from all her friends and would not allow us to come see her or Ken. We were bewildered and hurt, but tried to stay in touch with her by phone and cards. She who had mentored many women and taught in our church for years, was fun, encouraging and an inspiration to us, isolated herself from people who would have gladly surrounded her with love and support.
Ken passed away a couple of weeks ago, but there was no memorial for friends to attend and lend support to Ramona, but rather a simple graveside service at their farm out of state.
Another friend and I were planning to contact her upon her return home to try to bring her back into relationships. She didn't answer her phone and it was a rare thing for her to return a call. It is a helpless feeling when you want to reach out to someone who won't be helped. I can still recall my conversations with her. She wept and wept with bitter tears and wondered why God had forgotten her and why He allowed this and at the same time, she knew her Father God loved her, but she couldn't get over the loss of her son, the loss of her husband through all those years of dementia and finally his death.
Last week, I sent her a card letting her know I would be calling her in a few days. I wanted to give her some space.
Then last evening at church, about 6:30 p.m., one of her old friends told me she had learned from a mutual friend that Ramona was now in hospice. This was shocking news to say the least, and all we could think about was that Ramona had simply given in to her exhaustion and her grief and no longer wanted to live. And less than an hour later, at 7:20 p.m., Ramona had passed away.
This hurts my heart. I know that she is at peace now, but I wonder and so does my friend, should we have forced ourselves on someone who wanted to be alone? Someone who didn't want us to know where her husband was during those last times? My offers to come bring her food or meet her for lunch or come to the place where her husband was, were rejected. She only wanted to talk on the phone. And so, I listened.
I guess I'm wondering now how do you prevent a person from crossing that line into deep despair? Right now, I know that God heals the brokenhearted. And so, I believe that my friend is at peace and her heart is healed. I believe that her husband is healed of his dementia and that there will be reunion with them one day. And my friend Kevin is also in perfect peace with His Lord whom He loved with all his heart and that he rests and enjoys the company of those witnesses in heaven. My friend, Joe, is healed of his ALS and enjoys perfect rest and peace.
I awakened this morning with the one I love and hold dear to my heart -- thankful.
Appreciate! Be thankful. Tell those you love that you love them -- often. Enjoy them. Bless them. Talk with them. Tell them your appreciation. Be kind, tenderhearted, looking for ways to encourage one another and build each other up. Be kind and gentle to those outside your family and friends. We never know the pain someone else may be experiencing when we see a sad face. An encouraging word can lift a downhearted spirit.
I'm thinking maybe Ramona did not give up -- maybe she gave in. God knew her pain and He, the One who holds the breath we breathe, released her from her heartbreak to bring her into the joy of His presence forever.
"You saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began." Psalm 139:16