I just heard from Jacob that Kathy Stephenson died this morning about two. God rest her weary, weary soul. God raise her up on the Last Day. God bless Rick and Karmen and Kandace. God bless Jacob, my poor son, in his grief. God bless Pam and Stephanie Huggins. God bless Jimmy and the youth group. God bless MUMC and Cam and all who are touched by her passing, as indeed all of us are touched by every passing whether we realize it or not.
Jacob sent me an email: don’t be alarmed, but of course I was. I am fine, he said, but of course he wasn’t. He is torn up. Mom is fine, everything is fine (he didn’t mention Bethany and so naturally my mind went there immediately, but he was panicked, grief-stricken, broken hearted and unable to reach me as I had left my phone in the room). I was getting ready to send this e-diary to him and Jo and Bethany when I got his brief, urgent, cryptic: I need to talk to you right now. I ran to the room, got the phone, called, heard his tears and his plea. “They really want you to do the funeral,” he said. Might there be a way for me to leave early, for him and Jo to come get me, because “Saturday is too late for the funeral.”
I know that Jacob, too, really wants me to do this funeral, but I cannot—and honestly do not want to—leave this conference early. That is not selfishness on my part, I do not believe; just the acknowledgment that I need to be here right now, doing this thing that I feel called right now to do—this thing that seems such a gift from God to me—and that I may never have this time, this opportunity, again. I remember that when the sisters sent word to Jesus to come, that Lazarus was sick and dying, he did not go right away. He went, but later. I will go, too—though I be helpless before Kathy’s dying—and some may be aggrieved at my tardiness, fuss at me a little. I hope not. I don’t really think they will.
Still, it is the abiding paradox: how to care for oneself and others, how to love your neighbor as yourself, but love yourself enough to be able to love and not resent the needs of your neighbor. I loved Kathy, wrote about her in my book. I grieve her passing. I could be there if I would, I guess, but for the next few days this is my place. This is my call and my work. This is my job and my joy.
May Kathy and I both rest in peace. And Jacob. Rick, Karmen and Kandace, too.