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Holy Saturday

On Easter Sunday, 2015, I wrote “Letter to the Other Driver.” It was about forgiveness to the man who had caused the car accident that changed our lives on March 1, 2000. The forgiveness my children and I offered was hard won.

But as we near the joyous end of Holy Week with the crescendo of “HE IS RISEN!” it is important, I think, to mark our ability to celebrate without bitterness.

Have a Blessed Easter.

HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED.

Dear Driver of the Red Pickup Truck that ran a light on Paoli Pike on March 1, 2000,

My daughter and I were coming out of the hospital yesterday when I asked her if she thought you–the driver who caused her father’s grievous car accident–ever thought about Ron and his family. We were walking up an incline and she, with her longer and younger legs, was a bit in front of me. She did not immediately answer me. I thought perhaps she had not heard me.

Then she stopped and turned, the freckles standing out in her pale face. Visiting her father when he is so ill is never easy. “Probably not,” she said. She shook her head and smiled sadly. “His life wasn’t changed forever.”

So true. You, the other driver, received a ticket and, eventually, your insurance company sent us a check for the amount of income Ron would have made in a year. The company probably raised your insurance rates. The check did not completely cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses for the first three years.

This is fifteen years later and the medical expenses do not end. Ron is spending yet another holiday in hospital, away from his family. In the last 15 years, he has been hospitalized, on average, twice a year. He has had 26 major surgeries. His body is a mass of scar tissue. What we have paid out in medical bills would have seen all three of our children through college without the need to take out student loans.

I work three jobs to keep us afloat. I am always tired and frequently lonely. Our children have all been raised to adulthood without a “real” father. These things are sad. We still regret the circumstances of March 1 that brought us here.

But we have moved on. We have survived. And in our survival, our adaptation to a husband and a father so altered, we have found a new reality. We do not forget–we can never forget–but we adapted. We loved the old Ron, and we learned to love the new.

Perhaps what I say next will not matter to you because, as Bonnie observed, your life was not changed. But sitting in church on Easter Sunday morning–again without Ron–and realizing just how precious is the gift of forgiveness Jesus gave to us, this thought occurred to me:

We’ve forgiven you.

It did not come easily or quickly. The more surgeries Ron needed to endure, the more our lives changed and we learned to live with the specter of chronic illness, the more we held onto our anger. We needed to blame someone. So, it wasn’t until six months after the accident that our oldest son, Dennis, voiced his thoughts. “You know, Mom,” he said, ” I used to be really angry at the guy that hit Dad. Then I realized that it was just a mistake. He didn’t wake up that morning gunning for Ron Cobourn. It just happened.” His siblings nodded in agreement. It was time to forgive you.

We never told you.

And perhaps it makes no difference to you, but it made a difference to us. Forgiving you meant letting go of our anger. It gave us more energy to focus on Ron. The last fifteen years have been difficult, but not without joy. Our two oldest have found wonderful partners for their lives. Our youngest is buddies with his father. And I have achieved not only a doctorate in education, but found my voice as a writer.  Ron continues to be as involved in our family life as his health allows. One of our favorite memories is of our daughter’s wedding last June. Ron was unable to walk her down the aisle, but with the assistance of several friends and his walker, he danced with her briefly, something he had vowed he would do. Everyone at the wedding cried.

And so, nameless and faceless driver, we have come to another Easter, another hospitalization, another close brush with death. We remember March 1. It changed our lives forever.

Perhaps it did not change yours at all, but I like to think that it did, that once in a while you think of Ron and maybe pray for him.

I prayed for you this Easter morning, you who accidentally and without malice so injured my husband and altered our lives. We have survived. Jesus has risen. We are forgiven.

And we forgive you.

A Widow’s Valentine

The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but He sets the widow’s boundary stones in place. Proverbs 15:25

Last week one of my students, Anna, asked me what I thought I would get for Valentine’s Day. I looked at her with surprise and said softly, “Anna, my husband died. I thought you knew.”

“Oh, Dr. Cobourn,” she said. “I’m so sorry. You always talk about him as if he was alive.”

And I thought it was a lovely compliment. Ron is still very much a part of my life.

I placed a rose today, dear,

Where you take your final rest.

I said a little prayer, dear,

For I knew I’d had the best.

 

A loving faithful husband,

One so kind and true

And although you’re now in Heaven

My heart still beats for you.

 

A rose you gave to me each day.

Would I be your Valentine?

And with this rose I tell you,

Beloved, you are still mine.

 

BLUE CHRISTMAS

A BORROWED TREE

I am pulling plastic containers out of the basement storage space and handing them to Allen to carry upstairs. I’m doing my best to get in the holiday spirit, despite the recent news that my father now resides in a long-term care facility, recovering from pneumonia and fed by a tube because he can no longer swallow. The largest container, long and red, sparks some fleeting joy: my father’s Christmas tree, brought home from the beach house last November before Dad and my stepmother moved to the assisted living facility in Virginia. For twenty years, the tree sat in the front window of the house on School Lane.

 

selective focus photography of ornaments hanged on green pine tree

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

I’ll put it on my foyer, I think, and decorate it with the precious glass bells that were my grandmother’s, the plastic icicles from the year Dad served in Germany, and the various ornaments my late husband and I had collected over 44 years. I’ll put some of my mother’s ceramic houses around the base and add a few of Dad’s childhood cars.

It will feel more like Christmas.

I try to hand the box to my son.

Allen pulls his hands back, refusing to touch it. “What’s that?”

“Pop Pop’s Christmas tree. You remember we brought it home from Rehoboth last year.”

My autistic adult son crosses his arms and glares at me. “That’s Pop Pop’s tree.”

THE LAST TREE

I take a deep breath. I do not want to have this conversation now. Allen has FaceTimed his grandfather and is aware that Pop Pop is not doing well, but the concept of death as forever is still murky for Allen. His acceptance of his own father’s death was hard-won. I’m not sure I have the energy for the process again. “It’ll be nice to have it up, don’t you think, “ I say. “ We can put it in the front window and remember how it looked in Pop Pop’s house.”

Allen remains stubborn, shaking his head. “No. It’s still Pop Pop’s tree.”

I nod, choosing my words carefully. “Yes. But Pop Pop gave it to us.  He wanted us to have a big tree. He and Peg will have the little tree in their apartment.” I do not mention that PopPop will probably never see the apartment again and that Peg has taken over a poinsettia to the care facility. More than likely, this will be my father’s last Christmas.

 

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a green vase with red flowers on a table

Photo by Ray Shrewsberry on Unsplash

Allen shakes his head vehemently and yells, “It’s still his tree! Pop Pop’s not dead yet!” Tears stream down his cheeks.

Suddenly,  I understand. While Allen has accepted his grandfather’s serious condition, he’s not ready yet to see the tree as belonging to us. It would make his grandfather’s impending death real. Silently, I shove the tree back into its spot and pull out another, smaller box.

“We’ll put this one up instead,” I tell my son. He swats at his tears and carries the box upstairs; I follow with lights and trims.

THE BLUE TREE

In the foyer, I pull the little four-foot tree out and set it up on a table.  It is not green, but a teal shade of blue. As we start to trim it, I remember my own reluctance to put up our 6-foot tree the December after my husband died. While Allen continued to expect his father’s return daily,  I found myself overwhelmed with the holiday and grief.

My daughter and I had been yarn shopping at Hobby Lobby when I’d told her,  “I can’t do the tree this year. Dad and I bought that tree together four years ago. I just can’t do it. Allen and I will just do without a tree.”

“Allen will want a tree, “ Bonnie said, ever conscious of the needs of her autistic younger brother. “Get another tree. One for just you and Allen. One for your Christmas.”

I picked up the little blue tree off the shelf. It was different. There were no memories attached to it. “Your father would hate this tree,” I told my daughter as we set it up later that day.

“True,” she said. “He liked red and green for Christmas. But he’d be okay with the blue tree because you liked it.”

I knew she was right. The little blue tree helped me move on to a new life.

 

Allen and I spend an hour trimming the tree, carefully choosing which ornaments to use. We put a few houses beneath it and top it with a star. Allen plugs in the lights and we stand back to admire it. My father’s approaching death puts a pale over the holiday.

But it is still Christmas. The season of miracles.

A FOREVER TREE

I put my arm around my son. “Maybe next year we can put up Pop Pop’s tree,” I whisper. I think of all that will likely transpire in the months between now and then, moments of both joy and sorrow.

Allen heaves a deep sigh. “I guess he won’t need a tree if he’s in Heaven.” He returns my hug. “But if PopPop needs the tree back, I’ll be okay with the blue tree forever.”

I think of the joy in Heaven at this time of year. Is there a better place to celebrate Christmas? I think of how happy my mother, gone for 21 years, will be to see Dad again. I think of my husband smiling down on us and our little blue tree.

“A forever tree,” I say to Allen. “That would be a miracle.”

 

A NEW NAME

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This week my Substack post was about the acceptance of my autistic adult son Allen that his deceased father had been given a new name in Heaven. Allen and I continue to make our way into a life without Ron. You can read the complete blog post here.

 

As we transition from our formal association with the United Methodist Church and enter into our fellowship with the Global Methodist Church, we will be called by a new name: The Atonement Methodist Church. I have taken these words from many Bible passages, all listed below. And please listen to the poem of Hosanna Wong, who says it better than I can!

 

We are not the names of our past;

We are the names we have chosen to answer to.

As the conquerors, we listen to what

The Spirit says to the Church.

In the hidden manna, written on the white stone, 

Is a New Name.

It is an Everlasting Name.

Friend.

Chosen.

Masterpiece.

We are called by the mouth of the Lord

This new name.

We are called by another name.

Hand-made.

Purposed.

A temple.

Let everyone who has an ear, listen;

Let everyone who has an eye, see;

Let everyone who has a mouth, speak.

Our names are written in the house of the Lord.

Messenger.

Child.

Greatly loved.

Tangible words

Written on us.

The name of My God, and the name of the city of My God,

 the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, 

and My new name.

Free, free indeed.

Brand new.

I Have A New Name | Hosanna Wong (Official Video)

Hosanna Wong. I have a New Name. Mixology.

Taken from: Revelations 2:17,Isaiah 56:5, Isaiah 62:2, Isaiah 65:15, Revelation 3:12, John 15:15, 1 Thessolonians 1:14, Ephesians 2:10,1 Corinthians 6:19,Acts1:8,Galatians 3:26, Romans 5:8, John 8:36, II Corinthians 5:17

 

A Second Chance

Note: Today’s blog post is written by a young lady who attends The Branch Church but can often be seen between services. I encourage you to pay attention to the advice of this young lady whose life demonstrates that God ALWAYS loves us.

A SECOND CHANCE

Ashley Noel Slape

Mark 11:24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

TIME TO PRAY

How often do you pray? For me the answer to that question is easy. My mom has had me going to church since I was born. So, as early as I could start praying, I was. I was going with her until she got too sick. After that point, I had a teacher I loved who encouraged me to go to vacation Bible school at which I had a lot of fun, but it left me with questions. 

My dad didn’t go to church. I would have these questions, but he didn’t know how to help me. I will say he gave me free will to believe in whatever my heart desired. I had this friend whose mom would invite me over and we would talk about the Bible. For the first time I was getting some answers. I even went to church with them. My mom and my friend’s mom used to go to church together. My mom would sing at that church with my friend’s dad.

When I was almost 12, my dad passed away. This was one of the first traumas I would continue to endure in my life. Less than a year later, my mom passed away as well. I didn’t understand why God would take away my parents. Even after all that, I still believed.

I ended up living with my cousins who are Christians. I started to go to a private Chcristian school. I learned a lot, made wonderful friends, went to church, youth group, and went home and prayed. My whole life revolved around God and being Christian. I didn’t feel I was a good fit for my cousin’s family,  so I went to live with a foster family for a school year.

The new foster family would go to church on Saturday. It would be the longest service I ever went to. I joined the church choir just to make that time not feel as dragged out as it was. This would be the last year I would believe in God. Now at this point, I will write about the things I would have to go through.

THE HONEYMOON PHASE

I left that foster home and lived with what would become my adoptive family. They were not religious in the slightest. Something I learned about living with people I didn’t know is that the first few months to a year is a “honeymoon” phase. After that wears off, this is when problems start to show. I could write about all the bad things that family would do to me, but I will make that long story short.

I lived with my adoptive family from age 13 to 17. My mental health was visibly declining. I was able to get help and went into a psychiatric hospital. This is where I was diagnosed as having mental disorders (which I already knew I had). They started me on medication to help. 

The first week I was at the hospital, I met a girl, Katrina, who I would fall in love with. The problem with that was she was an addict. We worked on being able to live together, and soon we would have that. I was living in a large group home for youth my age and graduated high school around this time. This girl I would end up calling my girlfriend and soon after my fiance. We finally went to live together. We were always attached to each other but, of course, the honeymoon phase would end; things got real. We both were declining but continued to love one another unconditionally. 

After all we would do, she would relapse worse than the time before. I was there while she overdosed. She died and they got her heart to work again at the hospital. She declined that whole week, but I never left her side. This was a very memorable / traumatic week for me. Everything in her body was failing, and she was on life support. Her parents made the hard choice to take her off life support.

MORE GRIEF

I was able to grieve with Katrina’s mom, Nancy. Nancy is a really great person who is a mother-figure for me. She loves and supports me unconditionally. At the end of the same year that Katrina passed away, my adoptive dad also passed away. This would cause a lot of problems for me. 

After two years living in a town, I became homeless. I had to give up my cats, ended up in a  bad relationship, and lived with friends here and there until I got to a point where I was left with  nowhere to go. Even my brothers couldn’t take me in. I reached out to my aunt, and she and my uncle took me in. Soon after moving in with them, I received my diagnosis that I am positive with Huntington’s Disease that my mom had. (Now that we have my life story, everything else will make sense).

You probably are asking yourself, “How does this relate to prayer?” I always prayed, especially when things were bad. The thing about prayer is God is always listening. He was there even when I wasn’t believing in Him. He always believed in me. If it’s His Will, He will do it and answer our prayers. If He doesn’t answer our prayers, there are bigger reasons why He didn’t. 

CHOOSE SALVATION

I recently got saved. Being saved doesn’t mean life will be perfect. You will still go through trials and tribulations. It does mean I choose salvation. I choose to accept God as my savior. I will dedicate my life to getting to know my God. We are all vessels for God. We will also have gifts; things we are good at. We need to use the gifts God gave us.

My journey has been hard, but I believe there is a bigger  reason as to why I went through all that. God doesn’t give you things He knows you can’t handle. I truly believe God gave me a second chance. What does this all mean for the person reading this? God is always with you. The second thing is to pray. He listens to our prayers. The third thing is to build a relationship with God. We may not always have the answers, but God does. He loves us unconditionally despite everything.

 God has a plan.

 

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

This week I am thrilled to have Valerie Pilkington as a blogger for this site! She will be writing under the heading, “Musings From a Musician.” I am sure she will bring new insights as she talks about her own Walk With Jesus.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Musings from a Musician

By:  Valerie Pilkington

I just keep doing my best,  pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest!

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:  “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;  Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.   Jeremiah 31:3  NIV

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.  Proverbs 8:17  NKJV

When was the last time you had God draw you to Himself, and tell you He Loves You, He Wants you, or He cares about every part of you life?  Me, I hear it ALL the time,  when I read God’s word, hear God’s music or Listen to our Pastors’ sermons, I am reminded of this fact.  Actually I am sure you can agree with me,  the First Hymn or Christian song we all learned as children was  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong.”  I cannot read those words, without thinking the melody in my heart”.    

 

I went on a search to learn more about this song, it was originally a poem written by Anna Bartlett Warner in the 1860’s and was spoken as a comforting poem to a dying child.  Later in 1862 William Batchelder Bradbury added the tune we sing and also added the refrain:  Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.  God exclaims His love for us in the Bible 310 times in 280 verses. The word ‘love’ is discovered 131 times in the Old Testament and 179 times in the New Testament in the KJV.   (Thank God for Google search)

 

I guess we should pay attention, I also wondered what the scripture references were.  Some are:  Hosea 11:3, Matthew 18: 1-6, Matthew 28:20, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17, John 13:1 and John 14:1-3  just to name a few.  If we follow His instructions to come to God (Jesus, and Holy Spirit) like a child, or with child like faith, or the lowly position of a child, we will not only be in heaven, but be among the greatest in heaven.  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18: 2-4 NIV

 

Jesus loves me he who died, heaven’s gate to open wide.  He will wash away my sin,  let his little child come in.

Jesus loves me, this I know, as he loved so long ago, taking children on his knee, saying, “Let them come to me.”

Jesus loves me! He will stay Close beside me all the way; Thou hast bled and died for me, I will henceforth live for Thee.

 

I have also found some alternate verses I hope to sing until I go home to Father God in heaven.  (not sure who wrote them but they are cute)

 

Jesus loves me, this I know, Though my hair is white as snow.  Though my sight is growing dim,  Still He bids me trust in him.

 

Though my steps are oh, so slow, With my hand in his I’ll go.  On through life, let come what may, He’ll be there to lead the way.

 

When the nights are dark and long, In my heart He puts a song.  Telling me in words so clear,  “Have no fear, for I am near.”

 

Jesus died upon the tree Yes, he died for you and me.  On the third day he arose  Shout it out till the whole world knows!

 

We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved and spend eternity with God in heaven.  

 

 THANK YOU JESUS!  

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