Friday, July 13, 2012

In Memoriam

I request the reader's patience as I diverge from the topic of GMOs that I began yesterday. Look for a return to that topic soon.

In 1996 I was a young graduate student nearing completion of his degree. My beautiful wife and I were expecting our first child. Our limited budget had us living in a roach-infested apartment (you know it's bad when a roach drops off the light over your dining table onto your plate) and my wife and I were not eager to bring our new child home to such an environment. But what to do with such limited resources and a plan to move to another city soon after the birth?

Enter John and Betsy Moll. We had become friends with John and Betsy through a homegroup at the church we attended. Although we had known them less than two years, we had grown close to them and appreciated the warm, generous, serious and yet light-hearted spirits. They graciously opened their home and offered us a room of our own and full use of their house rent-free until we were ready to move on after our child's birth. We stayed with them several months, including the first month of our daughter's life. Their generosity blessed us immensely. Although in the nearly 16 years since we have had only infrequent personal visits, we have kept in touch and maintained a warm bond of friendship with this dear couple.

Last Saturday Betsy Moll ended her journey in this life after a four-year battle with cancer. She had not quite reached her 46th birthday. Today we had the bittersweet joy of attending her memorial service. At the end of last year as her health deteriorated we took the opportunity to drive the two hours to visit with John and Betsy. At the time she was quite weak but still able to sit and converse with us for a short time. We're so glad we had that time to visit and share that time with them. Listening today to the various testimonies of how she affected the lives of so many people, we were reminded of the amazing woman she was, a woman who loved deeply, prayed intensely and worked persistently to achieve the things she believed in. I won't try to capture all that Betsy was in this life. Suffice it to say that the world is a poorer place without her in it.

Betsy's death makes me angry. People shouldn't die when they are only 46. Death at any age is a sad event, but death in mid-life or younger seems particularly tragic. I want to ask God how it is he allows such a death. I don't understand his ways. And don't tell me that he loved her so much that he wanted her home with himself. That makes God out to be extremely selfish rather than loving. Death is a blight on our world, not the act of a loving God. Death reminds us that this world has fallen from what God created it to be, that the Kingdom has not yet been fully realized.

Listening to the testimonies and the message from the pastor today, I heard frequent reference to Betsy being home with God now. I used to think that as well. Now I am more inclined to believe that she is in a waiting place, an in-between state until the time when Jesus returns and heaven and earth become one. I believe with all my heart and all my hope that the day will come when Betsy will be reunited with John and all of us in a glorious, redeemed, recreated world. I don't know when that day will come. But come it will.

So while I grieve Betsy's passing and while I wrestle with questions about why God allows a person such as Betsy to die in the middle of life, I hold on to hope. I understood again today that hope is a core element of the Gospel message. We do not mourn as those without hope (1 Thes 4:13), because we know that the day is coming when death will finally be undone and all who have died will be restored to a new, resurrected, bodily life. How we understand that to happen and what exactly heaven will be like are secondary issues compared to the fundamental fact that God will bring life out of death. Although death still carries us from this life, it has been transformed into the gateway into real life. The pain and sorrow of Betsy's passing is not reduced, but even as we grieve we cling to this sure hope. This is not the end. It is the beginning. We shall see Betsy again and know her as a she fully is.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

In memory of Elizabeth Moll, 1966-2012

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