Jeane Yates is Home now.  She passed this past week.  

Three things.

One, she was “the first woman to —” forty things, positions, offices, jobs, honors, appointments, you name it.  She was the first woman to do it.  She had more brass and more polish than ten preachers.  She was articulate, measured, and gracious.  Disagreeing with her was work, because she was moving you to “yes” and you could not even guess on how many fronts she was working.  

She was that good.  That amazing.  I miss her.

Two, she taught me to measure time in “monthaversaries” rather than anniversaries.  When she and Kyle were newly married and penniless seminary students, they used to dress up in a tux and evening dress once a month and enjoy a cupcake with a candle in it if that was all they could afford in their tiny apartment.  Obviously, they had some nicer celebrations as time wore on and so many people enjoyed the pool and cruises with them, but the heart of it was class on the day of their wedding every month.  If all they had was a cupcake, they were dressing to the nines, making some romance of it and relishing it ravenously.  Every month.  Life is uncertain.  Every month.  

She knew how many months they had been together when Kyle passed.  I will bet your house that she knew how many he had been gone when she passed last week.  

Three.  Relationships were everything.  Nothing in life is eternal — except the players.  It never mattered if you were working the same side of an issue or not; if Jeane had said she loved you (‘in the Lord’ like she needed help in some of our cases) that was a done deal.  Decided.  Forever.  

Many people will be at her Homegoing Celebration tomorrow, but I had to just let you know, I love her, and totally expect her to be looking good the next time I see her, heavenward. 

Oh, and as long as she looks good, everything else is a distant second place.  And in His love, and in Kyle’s and her family’s love — dahling, she always will look mahvelous.  

If you die before I do, look her up, tell her I said “hi” and I’ll be Home in a heartbeat or two.  

It goes that fast, you know.  

Anniversaries and other ordinary days

Thirty three years ago I was dressed in an ascot and long tails.  I felt a little funny, but I was betting that french cuffs and frilly tux shirts in all sorts of colors would die sooner or later.  

I was right, thank God. 

I also had a ton of questions but I was betting on the girl who was breaking out in hives on her chest due to nerves.  I was fortunate there as well.  I had a doctor on call who prescribed beautifully and she was simply resplendent by evening.  And she was nervous because she had been engaged twice to great, godly guys (yes, I like and admire them both) — so how could she be sure?  

That was my job.  I had to be sure for two of us.  I should have had a case of nerves, but have never been smart enough to know when to do so.  God’s grace.

I am still certain.  She is pretty certain, and we are both amazed that we have lasted. persisted, grown, and (whisper this part) still in love.  

Today she sold more art, paid bills, filled out a FAFSA, fed horses, put horses on grass, opened her anniversary gift (for horses, silly) cooked dinner for us all before Brandon heads to camp as a counselor, and packed so we could spend a night in OKC before I preach on Sunday morning.  

I mowed, wrote, worked on class schedules, evaluated a couple of oil fields, memorized a sermon, rode my bike, and watched a movie with Jill.  

It — the work together — is the carbon fiber, spider silk or steel cable of life that binds it all together.  We salted it with kind messages from so many people, cheers, hugging each other, a couple of smooches, dinner with Steve who is finally closing on finishing his commission for the Sheikh.  But the fiber that binds the whole together, that makes the unshakable bond is the work together.  And that work is a sort of dance, like doing the cooking or kitchen together.  

The work is a dance.  You can be where the other isn’t, and work on what she needs next, and do what she doesn’t like to do, and finish about the same time.  

Dance.  Sometimes happy.  Sometimes sad.  Sometimes agitated (mild word rather than expletive deleted).

I like that you can dance when no one is around.  You can dance coyly with everyone watching.  You can even dance at weddings or funerals if you are slow and somber, but the fiber — the work — binds us together, binds us to the Lord of the Dance, and binds us to our time together until it ends.  

Such fetters make us rich.  

Loss and the Sucker Punch

He played for the University of Texas’s National Championship team.  He taught Sunday School for hundreds of students on Sunday Morning at Hyde Park.  He helped build Fellowship of Christian athletes to over 600 students on Wednesday nights, speaking, helping plan ski trips, letting students live with him and his wife in their lovely home in Austin. 

He was successful in business, family, community.  He exuded confidence. 

The wheels came off.  She left and took the kids.  He spiraled.  I traveled down and spent a couple of agonizing hours while he blew smoke practicing denial as an art form, intricate yet see-through art. 

Then decades later, on April 30 he ended his life.  No funeral.  No obit.  One of our students from back then tagged me on Facebook.  We talked on the phone.  No details.  Just gone.

So many aspects of his end nag at me, bother me, and even anger me — but the most surprising part, shocked me. 

What nags me, what bothers me is that the process is so bloody predictable.  Man goes “interior” and gets lost in his own thoughts.  Listens to his heart, which Jeremiah said, “is above all things deceitful”.  He separates from people who will call him or call his decisions on the carpet.  He shields his lies to himself from others.  He slips.  He excuses it.  He slips further, he rationalizes.  He separates from some people, others separate from him.  It is the same process that wolves use to separate a weakened specimen from the herd. 

People go see him.  He lies to them.  Fewer people keep striving to touch him.  He finds new “friends” who “accept” him as he is.  He slips further.  Some slips are accidental, but more of them are intentional now. 

Suddenly everyone gets the “call” — he is gone.  People closest to him berate themselves, “Why did I not see this coming?”  Others judge themselves as failing him.  Still others wonder at some chemical imbalance or deficiency, some chemical-physical REASON for this. And everyone experiences loss.  That angers me.

But the surprise, the sucker punch comes later. 

It comes in the instant that someone else is found dead, alone, inexplicably.  It is then when I realize that my first thought was – “self inflicted, suicidal.”  I am not thinking clear headed.  Three possibilities for someone’s passing, no four are all possible on the face of it, accident, foul play, natural causes, and suicide.  And I jumped to suicide first. 

That hit like a sucker punch.  His end shifted my way of processing information, of listening, of “being there” for a friend.  I “assumed” that this other soul had ended life here as he had, when the other possibilities are FAR MORE practicable. 

That tinge of loss, cynicism, nihilism — that shadow on my thinking is the hardest thing to predict, to counteract, and protect against.  If I had not the Hope I have in Christ, I would have no way to expunge it, once identified.