Late that afternoon, I got the call from my pastor who said, “Jennifer, I have a sister in Christ with me who just lost her husband on the bike path…” Lola had no one to be with her through the night as she waited for loved ones to drive in from southern Colorado and Indiana. At the time of the call, my body was very weak and I had just left a job incomplete to go home for bed. But when you know what it’s like to suffer alone, you know that someone who never has would need you even more.
There was no question as to whether I would go to her RV or not, but I confess that I had a discussion with God regarding my current state. I said to Him, “She needs a healthy person, not me. You’re going to have to give me strength, because I don’t have anything inside of me to give to anyone right now. Why did you call on me tonight?” That conversation took place for the duration of the short drive to the campground, and as soon as I saw Lola reaching her arms out to me, I felt strength first enter through my toes. It then traveled up and through my entire body to fill me completely as I felt Lola’s embrace. God had never let me down, and His timing was perfect that night.
As we sat and talked about what had transpired, I noticed a slight cross of sapphires and a single diamond. It had settled against her chest, after what I’d figured was rough sailing that day. I’d quit wearing my own cross a year earlier, fearing dependence on a symbol to speak for my faith. Yet when I saw hers, I thought, It’s time to wear mine again. And I wondered where I’d hid it all this time.
The numbness that had consumed Lola wore off through the night as the reality of losing her husband and best friend took over. Wails and prayers interchanged as Lola sought consolation from The Comforter. It was beautiful and gut wrenching at the same time, and tears from my own eyes wet my pillow for her loss. Lola knew where Kelly was and his entry into Heaven could not have been planned any better…pedaling a bike was high on his list of loves. Yet the vacancy tried to consume her. She battled back in prayer, though I don’t think she even realized it as the Holy Spirit interceded for her through the night.
The morning breeze brought with it God’s mercies while Lola gently stirred quinoa on the stove to mix with blueberries…a staple breakfast for the two. We waited for the arrival of her sister and brother-in-law as Lola frequently glanced at the clock on the wall. Between her checks for the time that seemed to have stopped, she shared who Kelly was as a man of God. How he truly lived out “A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.” (Eph 5) She told stories of Kelly laying face down in prayer and tears as he pleaded for our country that once stood strong upon In God we Trust. Lola showed books that she’d read weeks prior, which had dealt with suffering and the Bible verses that had spoken to her, though at the time she wondered why. Less than 24 hours after losing Kelly, the purpose of her preparation had become all too clear.
While at the mortuary I realized that I had seen Kelly’s smile and heard his kind “hello,” alive just a week earlier. I also remembered the yellow jersey he’d worn that day, and this day to be his last. Kelly and Lola had passed me on the bike path, and Lola confirmed that encounter. Kelly had said to her after we passed on the path, “She’s a skier.” And I remembered thinking of the two as I fought the wind heading to town, what a wonderful thing to share between a husband and a wife…biking on a beautiful summer’s day. Amazing the thoughts that cross our minds when we pass, once strangers in our lives.
The miracles of God’s provisions continued as I visited with Lola and what turned into four members of her family by day three. God put it on the heart of my friend to bring food for them, all at the perfect time. My work schedule was flexible enough those particular days to visit and celebrate Kelly’s life with my new friends. We laughed and rejoiced at the beauty of his passing as one demonstrated how Kelly would raise his hands with tears running down his face while he praised and worshiped God in church. He’d become a changed man, according to Lola, truly born again by surrendering to Christ just six years before, and he deeply understood the grace he’d been given—freely. And more tears flowed as Kelly’s absence was felt amongst them…us.
By Saturday we sat and watched a favored clip of Kelly’s on the Crab Family while Lola pulled out her journal to show me how she’d written down the lyrics to one of their songs. It had a suffering theme, and how God see’s us through those times. While I read and marveled at God’s preparations for Lola for this exact time, I realized that I had not written in my own journal in a very long time. I thought, I need to start journaling what God is doing in my life again. As those thoughts brushed against my heart, Lola reached around me and placed her sweet cross around my neck. In my protest, Lola said, “I want you to pray for me every time you wear this cross. I’m going to need all of the strength I can get to live without my Kelly.” She kissed my cheek, now wet with my tears.
On my way to clean my church that Saturday night, I marveled at God’s timing and blessings that flowed from this encounter as I clutched the cross around my neck. But I knew that words could not convey and my fingers could never touch most of what I’d gained through walking this path with Lola, feeling Kelly’s absence along the way. But the gifts are more real than what anyone could really know, and I never felt so humbled and unworthy to be used in such a way by God.
I stopped at the post office to pick up a package that a friend had sent to me. I’d tried the day before, but couldn’t. I sat in my car and opened the box to find note cards, newspaper clippings, Camilla Red Beans, Tony Chachere’s seasoning, and underneath it all was a journal. I sat in awe at the thought of how much God loves me and the reality of His presence touched me deep again. I no longer needed a journal to start recording how God has worked and continues to do wonders through the events we call life. He supplied one—at the perfect time. I marveled again at how he keeps His promises found in His Word. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4) And He truly does.
We often miss the blessings of the Lord due to the busyness of our priorities, or how we feel, or through self-imposed boundaries between those we do not know. What’s more important, I ask? What can be? Though many things I’ve gained through this experience and others are not tangible, those things that God does for me are irreplaceable, inconceivable; they are priceless. For if we miss blessings such at these through the excuses that seem so real, what more is there to live for that’s more precious than the gems of the heart…the ones that no one can steal. Our time is now to live and give and ultimately receive…at the perfect time. And each time I bike the path where Kelly last pedaled, there’s a cross at the place where God called him home. I’m reminded of this time, and how precious our time really is to God, most of all. And His is the most perfect of all.