Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Sudden Death

Early last December, a friend of mine died very suddenly. Monica left life like a person in mid-stride, stepping in deep mud, and then stepping straight out of her boots. Unexpected. Wrong. I still wonder how her family is doing, how her children are doing. How her husband is doing.

Yesterday, I went hunting online for a lovely, simple nature calendar I'd seen a few years ago.
James Partridge's Natural Science Through the Seasons
 I couldn't recall which blog I'd seen it on, but I thought it might be the Mommy Life Blog. "Mommy Life" is Barbara Curtis's blog. Barbara is a forthright, out-spoken, rather aggressive Catholic mom. When one of her 9 kids was born with Down Syndrome, she and her husband decided to adopt 3 other Downs boys, to keep him company and help him not feel odd or weird. She's strong like that.  I stopped reading her blog for various reasons, and had forgotten about it.
Barbara Curtis
Until I went hunting for that nature calendar. And I went to her blog site. And I found out that she'd died. A box at the top of the blog said: "Barbara died 10/30/12. She has left behind a loving family and a veritable host of warriors that she has helped and encouraged throughout the years to carry on the fight. We will do our best from this end. Many of you have asked of ways to help. We have set up an account to help with our family's mission and the four Down Syndrome children left behind without their Mama Bear."

She died suddenly last fall from a hemorrhagic  stroke. She was there one day, gone the next. Now her husband Tripp is raising those four Down Syndrome boys without her. Barbara's fight for children like her boys, her fight for Catholicism, her campaign for Montessori education -- her many convictions and hard-fought battles to defend them -- flicked away in a moment. We are left to ruminate on her life and all the good she did. Who would've expected her to die so young when she'd committed herself to so many life-long tasks? "Life-long" was shorter than any of us thought.

The other day I remembered a joke my old piano professor used to tell. "A patient in a hospital said to the nurse entering his room, "Who goes there? Friend or enema?" And I sniggered as I recalled it, and I thought of Ira David Halvorsen, eccentric, genius, brilliant musician, passionate lover of many things and people, child of God. I remember him. A little joke brought him to mind. I thought, "How many people remember him? How many years will he be remembered?" 20? 30? 50? That's a stretch.

We put a lot of stock in being remembered. Without children and grandchildren, an elderly person will be forgotten on this earth almost as soon as he dies. Even with family, 100 years from now, no one will know who I really was. Death makes me feel lonely. We all long to be known.

I Cor. 13:12 says this: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

And it struck me about Mr. Halvorsen! He is not being slowly forgotten; he is being fully known! It's unimportant to be remembered here on this old earth because when we die we go to God. We're more and better known after our deaths than we are before our deaths. Isn't that a wondrous thought? Up there in heaven are Monica, and Barbara, and Mr. Halvorsen. They know themselves, and each other, and are known by God and by others ... eternally. Stunning! Our knowledge here is so minimal. Practically speaking, I didn't know Monica well, I never met Barbara, and I knew precious Mr. Halvorsen only as an elderly man. On God's New Earth, I'll live with them all for as many years as it takes to know them intimately, and then have endless years still to go. No hurry. There is time for everything.

Monica's and Barbara's deaths remind me that each hour may be my last. If these women can die suddenly, I can too. Then I shall be known. That's a comforting thought.


  1. I'm ready to go but I'm not homesick.

  2. I sure miss Barbara's blogging. My sister died in a car wreck a little over a year ago on the way to work. My heart ties to heaven grow stronger as my loved ones go before me. Sigh.

  3. A poignant reminder. You make a beautiful point here. And to be known as our true selves without sin -- that is also something I look forward to.

  4. I often comfort myself that it is The most important thing, that God knows me. I hadn't thought before about how in the coming Kingdom we will all also know each other's true selves. When our redemption is full, our selves will be united, body, soul & spirit, whereas now most of us are living with varied levels of fragmentation, and only God knows the extent of it, though our friends and families have to suffer it with us.

    This discussion certainly encourages me to Get Ready, and it is hope-inspiring, too. Thank you, M.K.!

  5. I can help you with the nature calendar! It's from Natural Science Through the Seasons. I posted about the book on my blog; then Ann Voskamp got a copy and posted the monthly calendars on her blog. Now the book as been reprinted!

  6. The Curtis family lived near us a few years back and we shared church...sweet family. One of her young daughter-in-laws died recently as well. They are bravely pressing on in faith.

    Teach us oh Lord to count our days aright...
    thank you for sharing..


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