No one likes rough spots–well, at least bad ones. Unrelenting anguish, whether it be physical or mental is not enjoyable. We’ve all probably known someone who makes a mountain out of their molehill of minor ailments or afflictions.
Betty and George were a true love match, and both were silly about one another. Their lives had not been easy and both suffered a lot, but their love shone brightly. George had a carotid artery stroke, and, suddenly, the 6-foot strapping, strong man was put permanently in a wheelchair. Betty was as small as George was large. She might have been 5’2” and 115-pounds. Every day for more than 14 years she got him out of his bed to where he needed to go and attended to all his needs. He could not communicate more than a few words. She never knew if he’d make it through the night. Betty never slightly considered putting him in a care home. “For better or worse” meant just that.
During that time, their only son’s marriage fell apart and he became involved with drugs. Their only daughter was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus. Her baby sister, to whom she was like a mom, was constantly in turmoil and was finally killed by a boyfriend. One of her parents, who had been very cruel to her in her youth, showed up and moved in. Through all those things and multitudes more, I never heard Betty complain. Never once. I’d seen her at wits’ end but nary a complaint. She had the ability to look beyond her circumstances and trust that Jesus would work things out.
In the few quiet times she had, she would write letters or notes to those important to her. They were always a blessing. I received several. She was like another mom to me, but more so a living witness to the power of faith, more than anyone else I’d known to that point.
Easter Day 1991 found me in Iraq in an American infantry unit. The war had been mercifully brief. It was about sunup and the mail came around. I had one letter, from Betty. George had died whilst I was away. In the aftermath, I had written and told her I was getting out of the Army to start training for ministry. The letter was typically her. “I’m glad to know that you’re entering the ministry. The Lord sure has gotten me through a few rough spots.” I thought, “Rough spots”?! She’d been trying out for the movie version of Job most of the time I’ve known her, and she referred to them as “rough spots,” like she had a cold or a flat tyre. She succumbed to stomach cancer at the very time I was reading her letter. The letter had been sent months before, but it arrived at just the right time.
What got Betty through her trials and tribulations was her deep abiding Christian faith. Almost every Sunday, she had someone stay with her husband long enough that she could make it to worship. She had to forego a great deal of human interaction, but she would not willingly miss church.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I sat and read that letter and cried, thinking of all she and George had endured and how that bitterness had not overtaken her life and how she was encouraging me to do what we both knew I was called to do. When she had written, she did not know what lay ahead of her health-wise, but she did know in whom she trusted. He was the one who’d gotten her, like Job, through those “few rough spots.”
When I think of her now, I cannot help but remember the words from our order for the Burial of the Dead. From Job 19:25-27, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” Jesus our Redeemer still gets all his sheep over those rough spots and finally home to a place he has lovingly prepared, so that we might be with him.
Originally appeared in the Caymanian Times