The answering machine finished recording Sara’s call as I walked in. The ambulance was rushing my wife, Rita’s mother to the hospital; it was 4:15 p.m. Monday, August 19, 2013.
Fighting cancer had been a two-year battle. The aggressive nature of this disease made the doctor’s words prophetic, “If we don’t get it all, we’ll be chasing it…”
Like a boxer, with each blow Betty kept getting back up. First, the mastectomy … then, a section of bone removed from her forearm. Later, she taught herself to write with her left hand — after the amputation.
Labor Day plans included our clan making the journey home to Southeast Kansas. We planned some face time with both sets of great grand parents … four-generation-story-stuff.
Early Sunday morning Rita called her mother. Betty Lou announced she planned to retire from teaching. After 60 years, she thought, “It’s time.” In fact, she taught her last class one last time … the day before the call came.
John and Betty were dairy farmers – married 62 years. She gave birth to 7 children – Sara, Cary, Sidney, Rosa, Rita (my girl), Rodney, and Phillip. Known as Grandma Van Dyne by 20 people and Great Grandma by 34 more people … that’s a lot of influence.
Betty probably didn’t think of herself as a leader. But if leadership is intentional influence, there is no doubt.
Rita walked-in from work about 5:15 p.m., I knew something had happened. In a whisper with sobs she announced, “She’s gone.” Within an hour of her arrival at the hospital, she died a peaceful death. Her pain ended. Our pain began.
Rita and I have been listening … listening in recent weeks for what our minds need: renewal, thinking, reflection, and wisdom; what our bodies require: nutrition, activity, and rest; what we long for emotionally: the authentic, connections, support, love, and to be known; spiritually: renewal and restoration.
Many of you have experienced losses I cannot imagine.
One thing I noticed immediately following Betty’s departure: the world was still in a hurry, conditioned to live without margin. Running hard. Exhausted. How often we fall into bed only to roll out and do it all again.
When the call comes
The big questions will be answered, when the call comes; here are two:
What are you doing with the life you have been given?
Are you writing the Story today you will want told tomorrow?
Thank you Betty — not for a flawless performance — but for a perfect heart. A heart that loved unconditionally. A heart that kept yielding to the Potter’s hands.
Thanks for your contribution to the Story…