Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jay!

On February 8, 1968, I informed my doctor that the baby HAD to arrive on February 10. Dr. Girard laughed at me and said that the little one wasn’t finished cooking and that it would be at least two more weeks before he or she arrived (back then, we had no way of knowing the sex of a baby ahead of time . . . just knew that if a mother carried the baby low, it might be a boy – or maybe it might be a girl. I forget. Pretty much speculation back in those days.). I implored him to induce labor so that Cassie or Jay would be born on the second weekend in February, the last weekend that Dr. Girard would be on duty in February. I didn’t want that doctor with the big fat hands to deliver our little baby.

Finished cooking or not, Jay needed to be born on Saturday, February 10, 1968. Those who knew Jay well in his adult years seldom heard him say that he wanted something; he always needed it. And why did he need to be born then? Because he knew that his papa was having a hard time even thinking of having another grandchild. Wendy was my dad’s heart, and Jay needed an advantage in order to really be accepted. He got just that! Two things immediately made him special: the fact that he was a boy and the fact that he was born on his papa’s birthday. Pretty neat, huh?

By 1968, the Lord had given us two beautiful children. We brought up both Wendy and Jay thinking that they would be alive throughout our lives and would live to keep our memories alive for their children and grandchildren; however, in 1992, we found that Jay was just “lent” to us. Here’s a beautiful poem that has brought much comfort to me through the years and which proves to me how much God loves me.

LENT FOR AWHILE by Edgar Guest

“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of Mine,” He said,
“For you to love the while he lives, and mourn for, when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three.
But will you till I call him back, take care of him for Me?

“He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I wish this child to learn.

“I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have selected you.
Nor will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known , forever grateful stay.

“And should the Angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.”

I love this poem. I discovered it for myself a few years before Jay died, and I cried as I read it, thinking of the grief that poor bereaved parents must feel. I wondered how they could survive. A student brought the poem to me a year or so before Jay died because she was so moved by it. She and I cried together. The third time I read it was in a sympathy card sent to us shortly after July 2, 1992. Frank and I wept. Edgar Guest touched my heart three times years ago. He touches me still.

Another selection that I love is by Marjorie Holmes . . .


He was so young, God.
So young and strong and filled with promise. So vital, so radiant, giving so much joy wherever he went.
He was so brilliant. On this one boy you lavished so many talents that could have enriched your world. He had already received so many honors, and there were so many honors to come.
Why, then? In our agony we ask. Why him?
Why not someone less gifted? Someone less good? Some hop-head, rioter, thief, brute, hood?
Yet we know, even as we demand what seems to us a rational answer, that we are only intensifying our grief. Plunging deeper into the blind and witless place where all hope is gone. A dark lost place where our own gifts will be blunted and ruin replace the goodness he brought and wished for us.

Instead, let us thank you for the marvel that this boy was. That we can say good-by to him without shame or regret, rejoicing in the blessed years he was given to us. Knowing that his bright young life, his many gifts, have not truly been stilled or wasted, only lifted to a higher level where the rest of us can’t follow yet.
Separation? Yes. Loss? Never.
For his spirit will be with us always. And when we meet him again, we will be even more proud.
Thank you for this answer, God.

I may love this piece even more that the first one. Both brought great comfort to me in the early days after Jay died, and they continue to do so.

So . . . today, on this Jay’s 40th birthday, I’m wondering what my boy would have been like had he lived. Would music still be his life? Would he still love the crowds and the joy of having them in his hands? Would he still eagerly anticipate the breaks between sets when he could “work the crowds,” as he called that time? Would he still want his dad and me at gigs? Would he and Wendy still crack me up as no one else has ever been able to do? Would his hair still be long? Would he still say, “My mom’s always hot!”? Would he still have a charisma that drew people to him like a magnet? So many things to wonder about. Such a reunion to look forward to!

If you’re a talk show listener, as I am, you may be familiar with Rush Limbaugh’s very conceited comment about him and God. I just roll my eyes every time he says it. I’ll borrow from him, though, and say that Jay truly was “on loan from God.”

Lord, we are forever grateful for that loan. You know that I wish full payment hadn’t come due as soon as it did, but I firmly believe that You don’t make mistakes about anything. Thank you for trusting us with Jay. To say that having him with us was a pleasure is surely an understatement. It was a glorious adventure!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Such Good Memories

Sometimes articles in The New Mexican grab my attention. One such article was in today's paper, "The Religion Factor," by Pete Iaconelli. The author wrote about the influence of Christian coaches on young athletes' choosing certain colleges to attend and to play football for. The main coach that Iaconelli referred to was Tommy Bowden at Clemson University. I love Tommy just because he's Bobby Bowden's son, and I admire the Bowdens for their unashamed Christian witness in all that they do. The article goes on to tell about excellent Southern athletes who are choosing Clemson because of Coach Tommy Bowden's concern not only for their athletic abilities but also for their spiritual lives. He will continue the Christian upbringing that their families have begun. As a result, the families feel confident in turning over their "children" to him. My heart soared just thinking of the meaningful college years ahead of these young men!

As I read the article, my mind kept wandering back to 1957 and my choice of Mississippi College as the place that I would spend my college years. No, I wasn't a recruited athlete (my natural clumsiness would never allow me to play any sport); I wasn't even recruited for academics, though I might have been if I had made any overtures in that direction. I chose MC for my home away from home because of the Christian influences that I knew would be all around me for at least four years (as it turned out, it would be for more than four years, every year being better than the one before).

And what exactly were these Christian influences? For starters, we were required to take two Bible courses as prerequisites for graduation: Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament. Everyone took these courses; no questions asked. Christian Bible professors taught them. These courses weren't meant to encourage students to dispute the Bible. The Bible was taught as the inspired Word of God. To quote Wordsworth: "My heart leaps up" when I think of those courses. To say that I was inspired by these professors, especially Dr. Ernest Pinson, is an example of litotes (understatement). I was so moved by what I learned in just the basic courses that I went on to take enough courses for a major in Bible. They just weren't the right courses for a major. I took ones that were of specific interest to me. Most of the ones past prerequisite level were ones in which I was the only girl. All the other students were ministerial students. Dr. Pinson used to call me the "rose among the thorns." I loved that epithet! My greatest joys in those classes came when I outshone the "preacher boys"!

Bible professors weren't the only Christian professors at MC. During those years when I was there (1958 - 1964), I'd say that virtually all professors were Christian. I remember seeing almost all of them at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting at Clinton Baptist Church, and many of them taught Sunday School classes on Sunday morning and/or were deacons at the church. It was the norm rather than the exception that classes were opened with prayer, either by the professor or one of the students. I never remember a student refusing to lead in prayer if called on. I, too, began my classes with prayer when I was a fellowship teacher while working on my master's degree. I do remember one time that I was sorry that I called on someone to lead in prayer, though. On November 22, 1963, I went to my afternoon class in Freshman English and asked a young man to pray. What a mistake! He was much too shaken up and refused. I should have led myself, not called on anyone else. Maybe I should have cancelled class for the day. With President Kennedy's having been shot just a couple of hours before, none of us had our minds on class. If I had known then what I know now, I might have given the students an assignment to write about the day before the next class period and dismissed class immediately. Maybe I would have just dismissed class.

As members of the Baptist Student Union (the original BSU), and most of us were members, we were encouraged to have prayer partners. My one and only prayer partner during my years at Mississippi College was Jan Cutrell. She and I clicked as soon as we met. If I had known the term at that time, I would have called her my "new best friend" as soon as I met her. What a pair we were! Jan was probably the shortest member of the Class of 1962, and I was almost certainly the tallest. We referred to ourselves as "Mutt and Jeff." If you're reading this and don't know who Mutt and Jeff were, you're just a youngster! We were different in another way, too. She was the most talented musician in our class; I struggled just to be able to read music and filter it through my fingers. I took basic organ lessons; Jan could make the organ sing. She had a beautiful voice; I could barely carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. But in one respect we were "kindred spirits": we both loved the Lord and knew the value of prayer. Therefore, we met regularly in the prayer rooms either in our dilapidated Whittington Student Center during our first two years of college or in the brand new B. C. Rogers Student Center during the latter years. In both places, we spent many hours pouring our hearts out to each other and praying for each other and others who we knew needed our prayers. What a meaningful, joyous part of my college education!

Unlike many today who view their college years as dull and mere drudgery in getting to their professions, I loved my college years. I didn't mind the early curfews, the late nights at the library (especially after I met Frank, and we had really good footsies-under-the-table evenings there), the strict dress codes (for girls, no shorts or jeans unless we wore our raincoats over them). I felt that I was truly called to that little Baptist college in Clinton, Mississippi. My education was stellar, and the Christian influences that I had helped to mold me into the woman that I am today. I'm thankful.

As usual, my post has gone on far longer than needed or wanted by those who read it. Sometimes, though, an article just connects with me, and I feel the need to write. Pete Iaconelli truly inspired me today. Thanks for reading!