It seems to me, that death has been everywhere these past couple of months. I can’t begin to list the emails that have fallen into our emails at school. I’ve always heard that death comes in 3’s. This year it seems to be in 3’s or 6’s and maybe even 9’s. Most of them, I have not known personally. But each one has had an impact on someone around me.
Over spring break, I went to New York. It feels weird to enter this big city and yet feel at home. I’m learning to understand it more and more (one subway line at a time). But mostly, it has a feeling of home because Rob is there. I fell in love there.
For the first time, Rob and I were able to travel to Long Island without the help of the railroad. We rented a car and could leave, stop and go on our own timetable. This was a lovely experience. One of our Long Island stops included a visit to the cemetery. His mom passed away many years ago– Long before she could see him graduate from law school, to see him buy his first home, to see him get married. We stood there for awhile – sharing in the sadness, but feeling the healing.
As we drove out of the cemetery, I got a phone call from Kate. She told me that Mrs. Bell had passed away. I’ve been trying to write about this for a week now. But yet the words can’t seem to describe how precious the Bell family has been to the Goebels. We come from a small church. And in this church, you are family. This family has loved us.
I’ve been trying to remember a specific story about her. But they all get lost. They jumble together. There are just too many moments for a family that was always an important part of my life. Dinners around their table, her weekly violin encouragement, watching her serve in the church and seeing her paintings around town. Her daughter, Jan, is one of the most influential people in my life. Growing up, I wanted to be just like Jan. I watched how she acted, how she did her hair, what clothes she wore, and how she cared for other people. Now I know, that what made Jan such a great role model, was the role model she had in her mother.
The Saturday night before Mrs. Bell died, my mom went over to sit with her. She kept her company while her husband went to see their grandchildren sing in a concert. I am glad my mom had that time with her. When my mom got home, she called and told me all about their conversations. They talked about the wedding, and how Mrs. Bell had worn a pillbox hat when she got married. She also told mom that she was ready to go.
The next day, I was scheduled to do the scripture reading at church. Wouldn’t you know, it was I Thessalonians 4:
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words
I couldn’t help but think about Mrs. Bell as I read these words before the congregation. My voice was shaky not because of nerves. But, because I knew her time was coming near. He is not a God of coincidence.
A week later, I boarded a plane trying to put into words in an email to the Superintendent what this woman meant to me. I was desperate to attend the funeral. To grieve with my family. As I buckled my seatbelt, approval was granted.
This all happened the last week of March. A wave of emotion sweeps over me every time I hit this time of year. Seventeen years ago, I babysat Diana on the last Sunday night in March. She was a sweet third grader in our church. We were also family. Our moms spent a lot of time together. She was just like a little sister to me. And I mean that with my whole heart. We ate egg salad sandwiches and watched The Fox and the Hound. And just a few days later, she was gone.
I remember standing at the cemetery at her funeral. The sun was bright, there were birds chirping and the ground was soft beneath my feet. But there was still a winter’s chill in the air. As we drove to Mrs. Bell’s funeral, the air felt the same. Winter was passing away, and spring was trying to push through. I am grateful for those little things, that even though we are in our grief, we have hope. Despite that we feel cold, empty and that deep sadness of winter, God has given us hope in a spring. We have the hope of life returning. Eternal life.