It began with a flyer.
The boys wanted to make some money, so we designed flyers 'to wash your car, take out trash, or mow your lawns' and they delivered them throughout the neighborhood.
That was two years ago.
Only one elderly woman called them.
It was my neighbor three doors down.
From that day on, they became her car wash guys.
We've all adopted Betty Jean as family. She is seventy-eight years young and she's become my dear friend. We've talked gardening, she's given me three olive trees, I've given her haircuts.
Her husband was diagnosed with Dementia and Parkinson's disease, so the weight of caring for him fell on her.
Since August, Betty's husband's health had been steadily going down hill. He was bedridden and, although hospice came every other day, her children didn't live nearby and she was going to need help when they couldn't be there.
One day, she called me to ask if I would come over every day at 6 pm. to help her reposition him for the night and should she need me, would I be willing to help her clean him up if he messed his diaper? This was new for me. At least with a stranger. No, not just a stranger. For.Any.Adult.
Fast forward to the week before Thanksgiving. His health was failing rapidly and we all knew his end was eminent.
This past Thursday came and the nurse told Betty Jean that it would be that day or the next. I walked over after our life group and stayed with her and her daughter, who was also staying there, but had to work the next day. I asked if I could read the Scriptures over her husband and pray for him, which she gladly agreed to.
As I sat at his bedside, I shared Jesus with him. I encouraged him, prayed for him, sang to him and told him the gospel. It was beautiful. Although he couldn't talk and was on morphine, I know he heard me.
Only God knows what warfare went on in that living room as he lay there and the Word went forth. I do know that His Word does not return void, but accomplishes what it's sent to do. I believe God kept him alive until he heard the truth and had an opportunity to receive it.
I stayed until 2:30 a.m., when we agreed that she should sleep and I needed my pillows. I ran home in the cold of night, dog tired, but so thankful to have had those moments with him.
The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed and hurried over in my footie jammies! It was a quiet morning, no one came over and the two of us had a great time cleaning out her fridge, eating and talking, all the while vigilantly watching and waiting.
Her husband had been snoring deeply but as I sat knitting between the kitchen and the living room where his bed was set up, suddenly I didn't hear that deep snoring anymore. I mentioned to Betty that I didn't hear him and we went directly to him.
There was a faint, slow heartbeat and his breathing was shallow. She began to sing the same song she'd sung to him for months, Jesus loves me, and I joined in with her. When she got to the part about 'we are weak', he startled us with a deep gasping breath. We kept going, both our hearts beginning to beat a little faster, and then we recited Ps. 23 to him.
I put my hand on his neck and there was a faint beat. Betty began telling him that 'he needed to go now, go see his mamacita, and members of his family that have passed on.'
Again, we began Jesus loves me, and once again, he gave another deep guttural breath. As she stood across from me, her voice so sweetly encouraging him that he was going home to be with Jesus, I felt his neck and then his chest. Because she is almost blind, she couldn't see whether he was breathing. She looked up at me and asked, "Is he gone?" With a crack in my voice and tears beginning to fall, I said, "Yes, I believer he's gone. He's gone to heaven and you sang him there." I told her, "That was beautiful. You sang to him, you told him to go and he did." She asked me what time it was. I told her, "it's 12:47."
Looking back now, I know it was a holy moment. He passed away peacefully and with his love at his side. She is the strongest woman I know. She trusted Jesus to help her care for him daily; she sang to him, called him her baby, loved him to the end and then tenderly let him go home. She was selfless, patient, long-suffering but I could see this frail little woman's heart ache as he died. My heart ached for hers.
Tomorrow is the funeral at 'The Ranch'. Turns out her ancestor fought in the Alamo and as a result, inherited land that the government gave the Brown family back in 1836. The cemetery is on that land; Brown Rd., no less!
I have been welcomed into this family and the love I feel is unexplainable. Death is always sorrowful, unless one recognizes that life comes from death. God has forged some amazing relationships through this heartache and sorrow that I know will last for eternity.
Today would have been my mother's eighty-fifth birthday.
I do hope mom meets Mr. Raul. Together, they're worshipping Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The angels proclaimed, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." His coming brought joy into this world.
Today, I have joy.
I pray that tomorrow I will experience joy all over again.