Some Assembly Required

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Most Unusual Funeral

I was out of town the day of Bo Henderson’s funeral , but I was told by many people who did attend that the funeral was, shall we say, just a little unusual—mainly because Bo Henderson (the deceased) delivered the eulogy! What you have to know is that Bo Henderson was a preacher; he’s probably preaching in Heaven now. In his years as a pastor, he had preached a sermon on the topic of something like “Don’t Wait Until I Die to Give Me Flowers” (Of course, his casket was surrounded by flowers.) One point of the sermon was that we should be sure to give “flowers” every day to those around us. It might be real flowers, or it could be a phone call, a card in the mail, a meal, a “thank you,” or an errand that someone needs to have done—things we’ve all at some time thought about doing for someone, but we got busy and just never quite got around to it. That’s the kind of thing that Bo wanted us to get into the habit of doing when he first preached that sermon.

Bo had a rather dry sense of humor, so I’m sure as he looked down from Heaven on the gathering that day, he loved the humor and irony planned into his funeral; I can see him in my mind’s eye as he chuckles, looks toward the ground, and sort of nods his head. The service probably started very sadly because his death had come as a huge shock to all of us who knew him because he was a fitness buff—looked great and was in tip-top physical condition. But he went to bed one night and at some point in time before morning, he was walking around Heaven, checking out those streets of gold. The humorous part of the service was that a recording was played from the day that he had preached the sermon “Don’t Wait Until I Die to Give Me Flowers.” I was told by some attendees that hearing his voice and knowing that he was in the casket at the front of the church was a little strange, but hearing the sermon topic added a little much-needed levity to the somber mood of the day. I think he would have approved!

One thing that I realized during the year that I had cancer was just how important those “flowers” are! There were times when those “flowers” helped me realize just how loved I was and how many people were thinking of and praying for me; that realization got me through many extremely difficult days when I really wanted nothing more than just to go to bed and give up. By the end of that year, I had received almost a thousand cards in the mail, weekly (real) flowers from my sister in Texas, countless e-mails, an unbelievable number of meals (many from a former student and his wife), and the countless number of things that my family did for me (including special surprises from our two daughters every time that I had chemo). All of this brought me face to face with the fact that I had failed miserably at giving out those “flowers” before my illness. But I’m working on improving that because I now know what those “flowers” can mean to the one who receives them.

And I wonder how many people had meant at some time to say something special to Bo. Maybe it was, Thanks for visiting me in the hospital. Or maybe it was, Thanks for praying for me when I really needed it. Perhaps it was simply a delayed, I love you. They really had meant to do that—for a long time! But, like all of us, they had gotten busy and “never got around to it.” Then they heard the news that they would never again have the opportunity to tell him those things that would have meant so much to him.


Several of you have reminded me that I'm past due in getting a blog out to you. I want you to know that I am aware of that, but I've been having trouble with my blogsite and still don't know for sure that it's going to work, but I'll try. If this works, I'll have a "real" blog out to you soon.

Oh---the title--"Bellybuttons!"--you want to know what that means, right? When our girls were little, and they were trying to wiggle out of responsibility for something they had done (or NOT done, as the case might be!), their daddy would always says, "Excuses are like bellybuttons: everybody's got one!" So the "blogsite not working" is my "bellybutton." See you soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blessed By Cancer

It was June of 2010, and I had just read a devotional written by a friend in which she explained how she had been “blessed by the fire” that had burned her house to the ground. That reminded me of something that I had recently said to my daughter’s Sunday School class. It was something that had been tumbling around in my head for a while, but I had never actually verbalized the thought. And if you had told me even a short time before the revelation to the women in that class that I would ever actually say those words aloud, I would have said that you were crazy.

I have a very close circle of friends with whom I share everything, and we had not all been together for a while, so I hadn’t even told them what was in my head and my heart. A couple of weeks after I shared my thoughts with the Sunday School women, my group of friends went on our annual retreat, and it wasn’t until then that I shared this very personal thought with them. I’m still very cautious about saying these words because most people will not understand, but I have to say them anyway and trust that God will use the words wherever they need to be read or heard.

“I’m grateful I had cancer.”

There! I’ve said it again! It took me only three years to say that aloud the first time. Do I want to do the cancer thing again? A resounding NO! I didn’t want to do it the first time, and I certainly don’t want to do it again! God and I have had that discussion—more than once! I pray daily that I never repeat that experience, especially for my family’s sake. However, I have arrived at the point in life that I can truly say that if that is how He chooses to use my life, then so be it.

2007 was without a doubt the worst year of my family’s life. I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer (lymph node involvement) in late March and was finished with surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation on December 21, 2007. There is so much I could say about that year—very little of it good. Then how, you may ask, can I be “grateful I had cancer”? Because God was involved, and He did many, many wonderful, loving compassionate things for us that year, and, to me, the greatest thing He did was to change me. For that, I am eternally grateful! I am a much better person now than I was b.c. (before cancer), and I like the new me much more.

I have a clearer picture of so many things now—what my priorities need to be, how blessed I am in everyday life, the reality of what God wants me to do and be while I’m here on this earth. The most important “clearer picture” that I received is that I got to know—really know—God so much better. For that especially, I am grateful! Have I arrived in my relationship with God? Absolutely not, but I am so much farther along than I was, and I do not want to go back to being the person I was b.c. Thank you, God, for teaching me, for changing me, for allowing me to learn so many things—even if it took cancer to do it!

If you will remember, the name of this blogsite is “Some Assembly Required.” (See very first blog for explanation.) This refers to the fact that none of us is the Christian that we should be, and just as I constantly reminded (nagged ?) our daughters to clean their rooms when they were young, God will continue to work on us through whatever methods He deems necessary to help us grow. One of those methods in my life is cancer; He used that to change me and grow me up in so many ways. As awful as the cancer and its treatments were, God has taken that terrible year and turned it into good for not only me but for others as well. Romans 8:28 (NIV)—And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to His purpose.

Do I understand any of this? Not really---except for the fact that God is God, and I, obviously, am not. I just have to trust Him. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)—For My (God) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.