Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Fragile We Are

Sometimes, no matter what you say, your words just sound stupid in your own ears. Raw emotions leave you feeling like a frayed rope that has been torn from its anchor. Fragments of memories spin through your mind like falling leaves in a summer storm.

We lost another friend this week. Thus far 2009 has been "The Year of Loss."

Fred Winters.

Woody Foreman.

Lynda Edelen.

Our friend of a quarter of a century succumbed early this morning to complications following cancer surgery. How do I tell you about this friend? I think ... by stories. Glimpses of a life lived with gusto and passion.

When I think of Lynda I think of ...

-A ski trip to Wisconsin. Convinced by her husband, Dave, to attempt one of the more difficult trails with him, she climbed on the lift. Debbie and I waved goodbye and headed to our van, too chicken to attempt the descent with them. In about 10 minutes Dave skied up ... alone. We looked at him. His glance held no hint of humor. He quietly said, "Not a word." We looked up the mini-mountain to see Lynda walking down the slope carrying her skis. It was a moment. It was also a silent trip back to the hotel!

-Dad gummit!

-Driving all day with our kids for a round trip White Sox/Rangers double header in Chicago during the last year of Old Comiskey Park. Being glad that Dave loved to drive and Lynda loved to keep him awake.

-Ten consecutive 4th of July celebrations at their home. Launching highly illegal bottle rockets into the sky to impress our kids only to have one sail into the neighbors roof. Oddly enough, they purchased that house and moved into it a few years later. I think it was a "guilt purchase."

-Hoppin mad!

-Another ski trip to another mini-midwestern mountain. Sharing a bed and breakfast with them and sitting in their room watching the winter olympics. Lynda had back pains and Dave used a little massager on her as she lay on the floor. I fell off the couch laughing as she gasped, "If I knew it was going to feel this good I would have started moaning sooner!" That became a running joke for years.

-Teaching teenagers to "foot wrestle" during "JPL" in the late 1980's ... and losing to her. (You grab each others hands and try to stomp on each others feet while dancing out of the way of their feet trying to do the same to yours.)

=Sitting in a lawn chair and watching Lynda and Debbie dig two feet of snow out of their driveway while I nursed my broken arm in a sling. An arm I broke ... you got it ... skiing with them.

-Watching her host my son Scott's (approximately) 4th birthday party in our home because Debbie was sick in bed with mono. That's what friends do.

-Listening to Lynda and Debbie talk on the phone every Sunday for the last few years. Each conversation lasted about two hours and ended as I heard my wife say, "I love you, Lynda."

-Conspiring with her every Christmas and birthday as she worked to find Debbie the perfect present.

-Emails that always included a minimum of three "Ha!'s" as she laughed at the events that life was throwing her way. Even the events that start with a "C" and rhyme with "Lancer." She never complained about it. Never showed fear of it. Always treated it like a side light to be dealt with but not mastered by.

The stories do not stop there. There are so many more. I did her grandmothers funeral. I did the funerals of her in-laws. At her request I did the funeral for a 10 year old little girl named "Anna" that lived next door to her and died way too young. And now on Saturday I will do her funeral. Honestly, I do not know what to say. Like every good pastor I have a well stocked and often used file of funeral sermons. But they will stay in their digital file cabinet this weekend. You see, I have to talk about my friend. And someway, somehow, I have to help my other dear friend, her husband Dave, find hope in the midst of pain. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to do that. When his future consists of coming home after work to their dream home, decorated by his bride, with food in the cabinets that she purchased. How do you get through that? For that matter, how do you help someone else get through that?

Lynda lived life with passion. Joy was her friend. She knew her cancer was very serious and very dangerous and yet she seldom spoke of it. It was, for her, an obstacle to be navigated around. It turns out it was an iceberg to be sailed into. Which reminds me that in our last email we talked about a cruise that she, Dave, Debbie and I had talked about taking in 2010. But there will be no ship. No ocean. No cruise.

In one of the last emails she sent me she said, " I don't feel happy right now. Hate that. I like to live my life in my happy place but can't seem to find it these days. Have you seen it??????????????? Not on the GPS currently. " Tonight I know that Lynda has found her happy place. She is home. How do I know that with confidence?

Two nights ago, when we believed that all was well and she would be home by the weekend, Debbie and I went to bed. In the middle of the night she had a dream. She was in her class room with her students. Lynda walked in. She invaded Debbie's dream. Debbie was surprised in the dream to see her. Even in the dream she knew she was out of place. She said, "Lynda!" And Lynda said, "I'm okay. I'm in the arms of Jesus." Debbie told me the story the next morning. I assured her that Lynda was fine, the doctors said the danger was passed and it was just her own brain playing out its fear. Two hours later Dave called me with the horrible news. The unexpected truth ... that had occurred in the middle of the night. Just about the time Debbie was having her dream.

A gift from God. A last visit by a dear sister who just stopped by on her way to heaven. I don't really have any answers about how that works. But I believe it. So does Debbie. So does Dave. Don't bother trying to tell us otherwise. It will be fruitless.

Tonight she is okay. She is in the arms of Jesus.

But I'm not at all sure that the rest of us are doing that well. How fragile we are.

Lynda being "pick pocketed" by The Amazing Elle


Brad Greer said...

If my Greek is correct eulogy means good words, you have penned them; compassion means bound together in suffering, you have found that place as well.

Thank you. Bless you.

Brad Greer

Earth Muffin said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Through my years working with Debbie, I learned what a good friend Lynda was to both of you. She once donated a ton of books to my classroom...books that still sit on my shelves and are still picked up a read by my students. Though I didn't know her personally, I know that Lynda was good people.

Anonymous said...

So very sorry for your loss, Ron. What a beautiful gift Debbie was given in her dream. I pray that you two will continue to be comforted by that gift, and by the Holy Spirit's continued presence.


Unknown said...

I too have a zillion stories. And Debbie, we too always ended our conversations with I love you. She was my very best friend. We had history and EVERYTHING you said about her is so true. She has taught me to live each day with faith and compassion and laughter. I guess you can say that she finally listened to my mother and has gone Home!

Unknown said...

I am sorry for your loss. I belive in the dream, I believe she was given the chance to say goodbye. Do not let anyone tell you any different.

Melanie Davis said...

Well said Ron. I admired Ms. Linda. You just gave several more reasons to admire her. I will continue to pray for you all. Hurts don't end after the funeral.