Yesterday was the day we were all dreading. It had been in the works for months. We had made a couple of trial runs but the day had finally come to send the Bedford family to Fresno, CA.
We started the weekend off with a going away party Friday night. The celebration began with a time of worship. I must say I am so proud of my husband for actually singing the songs and not crying instead. There was a slide show where we all wondered where the time had gone. We laughed, a lot. We cried, a lot. And we ate, a lot! We were joined by our wonderful friends Doug & Denise Kreighbaum. Doug was one of the founding pastors of our church so it was wonderful to have them on hand. When my family and I got home at 12:30am I told my husband I expected for Sunday’s final good-bye to be harder than the party.
And it was indeed. I started crying at the first song. My plan had been to pace my crying (and emotions) but yeah, that didn’t happen. The Bedford’s have been here 16 years & we’ve been here 20. Harold & I have served alongside Tom & Andrea through good times and horrendous times. And we will be joining them in a few months in Fresno to help Bread of Life Church. Somehow I thought this fact would help me through the goodbyes. But the memories were too overwhelming.
My favorite memory that pretty much sums up our personal and pastoral relationship with Tom occurred four years ago.
Evan woke up Saturday morning at 5:30 with chills that rapidly turned into vomiting & a high temp. … The doc wanted Ev to immediately go to our local ER. We jumped in the car & got Ev there right away. Fortunately our good friend, Dr. Jerry was the ER doc that day. After a preliminary exam it was apparent that Ev’s blood pressure was decreasing rapidly & his heart rate was rising. We were told that he was in septic shock, which means that there was a system wide infection in his body. HIs body was working hard to keep his major organs functioning. The doc’s in the Big City pulled together a team & flew to our town to get Evan & fly him back to Children’s Hospital. Our friend & pastor, Tom, stayed with Evan at our local ER until the team got to our town. (What I didn’t mention was that Tom stayed with Evan from the ER until he was loaded on the life flight. We found this out later) We got in the car to make the 4 hour drive, hoping to get to Children’s before Evan. He has been in ICU since Saturday evening.” (You can read more here)
So on the worst day of our life, the one where our only child nearly died, Tom was there, willing to stay with Evan until he either took his last breath or got on the life flight. If Evan had died holding Tom’s hand & not ours there would have been no one else who we would have wanted there. Fortunately for all of us that did not happen.
We made it through Sunday and I have to say that while all of us at Life Church will miss the Bedford’s we are also excited for their next day in Fresno and our next day here. I am very grateful that my family and I get to be here for a while longer, helping anyway we can as our local body and leaders step into the next adventure God has for us.
So off they go with the love and blessing of a very grateful church.
There are people you recognize just by the sound of their voice. You hear a familiar voice in the grocery store aisle and instantly know who it is. A flood of memories come back even if it’s been years since you saw that person.
What does that say about us? Some people are carved so deeply into our being, some for good and some not so good. They will always be a part of our personal sound track. It’s like hearing a song from high school and remembering where you were when you first heard it. My Uncle Wayne, who helped raise me for a time, has been dead for several years but sometimes when I am out and about I think I hear his voice. My heart irrationally leaps for joy even though I know he is gone. And sadness comes when I realize it is someone else’s voice I hear.
On Nightline this week there was a segment on Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Robert Stern of Boston University School of Medicine said that the last thing to go was the person’s emotional feelings. “They might not remember who you are but… they still can connect.” I believe that the sound of our voices help carry those feelings. It is good to know that on some level love cannot be truly forgotten.
The voice of God is that way. I don’t mean the voice that you hear out loud but the one you hear inwardly. It reminds us of our love for him, where or who we were when we first heard that voice calling us to a higher purpose than our own selfish desires. Even if we have walked away from God and our faith, the sound of his voice instantly reminds us that we are connected to him.
Have you experienced the voice phenomenon?
Going to Wal-Mart in my town isn’t just going shopping, it’s a social event. Anytime of the day or night you are bound to run into someone you know. I know tons of people here because I worked at the university for several years, worked at the hospital in admissions, and am on staff at one of the largest churches in the city. Add to that my son being in Special Olympics and part of the sizable disabled community. I am routinely shocked by how many people I have shared parts of my life with.
After work today I ran to Wal Marts (as it’s called here) to pick up a few things. When I got out of my car I saw my former student, Shelby. As soon as I walked inside I spied my friend & current coworker/church member Jodie. We had just told each other goodbye at work and here we were, together again. After that I chatted with someone I had met at the hospital. Sheesh! I just wanted milk!
Then, unexpectedly, in the detergent aisle, I choked up, my eyes started to tear, and the realization of how much I enjoyed being in a place where I knew so many members of my community. That never happens in big cities. There was no previous experience that prepared me for the feeling of not being anonymous in a grocery store. Or at the gas station, McD’s, or the dentist office. I will miss this enormously. I will miss all of you, people of my life, more than you know.
Today was the first day of school. Teachers and staff had everything finished. The building was (mostly) ready, the students looked wonderful in their new clothes, toting new backpacks filled with notebooks, pencils, and pens. (I harbor a secret desire to own a stationery store because then I could feed my own office supply addiction at cost.)
My first stop this morning was to sit in on the Jr. High and High School orientation. We have a few new policies and procedures so Principal Moore wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. Pastor Tom spoke briefly, encouraging everyone to treat others with the same respect they want to be treated with. Ah, the Golden Rule. It never goes out of style.
As I sat in the back row, I did a quick head count of “my” high school students. It was then I realized, with a little pain in my heart, that this was my last first day of school. After 8 years of teaching Language Arts I will hang up my hat at Life Church School and pass the baton to someone else next year.
During these moments, moving back to California seems almost too painful to think about. Leaving these kids who I have known since their birth will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. At the moment I am trying to force myself not to be maudlin. I know it is right to move because, after all, there are children there who need to learn the wonders of a great story and of an amazing God. I doubt I will leave my teaching days behind me in Missouri and that is some consolation.
The two classes I teach went swimmingly today. The ninth graders were properly petrified by my reputation of being a “hard teacher”. The tenth graders tried to assure them that I’m not the bad, although Daniel F. told them I “almost never” let someone leave to go to the bathroom during class. (True!)
It will be a great year, full of its own joys and challenges. I’ll pour myself out again, perhaps for the last time on this particular land and when it’s time, leave these students in the hands of God.