Happy Birthday Dear

When we look to the future, most of us I suspect expect to at least hit our three score and ten. Given the widespread strength in the west, still others are confident they will see four score years.  We all acknowledge that we don’t know the future, and that we are all living on borrowed time.  Sometimes God reminds us.

In just a few days we will pass the anniversary of a truly blessed day. It was 48 years ago that Joe and Betty Lou made their way to the hospital in York, Pennsylvania. Betty Lou was likely uncomfortable, Joe rather nervous.  I suspect the other person in the equation was both uncomfortable and nervous. But she, September 9, 1965, made her appearance.

Denise did not get three score and ten. She did not even get 48 years.  As such it is a temptation for me to consider all that we have lost.  I look at my children, especially our youngest who was just a year old when she was diagnosed, barely two when she died, and grieve that they did not have more time with her. How we all would have delighted on this day in all her favorite birthday rituals.

I fight this temptation, to dwell on what we have lost however, by remembering what we have gained. I spent the first 26 years of my life without Denise. Most of that time, Joe and Betty Lou, along with her brother Joe and sister Sue had her all the time. When she came into my life, however, everything changed. The harbinger was on our third date. I. being cheap, took her to a concert that I had free tickets to, at the Christian Booksellers Association Convention that met in Orlando that year. We listened to a cavalcade of stars from the CCM world. On our way home I took the opportunity to explain why I wasn’t much of a CCM fan. “This music,” I explained, “always presents Jesus as your friend. I get why that might be appealing to some, but I am a man. When I consider Jesus I don’t see Him as my friend, but as my Lord. When I draw near I don’t fist-bump Jesus. Instead I kneel, hands on my sword, as I await my orders. He is my King, my General, my Lord.”

She later confessed that she considered that night ending our budding relationship. Instead, our fourth date began this way. The first words out of her mouth were, “Open your Bible to John 15:15, and read it.” I did so, and read, No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Truth be told my first thought was not about what a wonderful Savior He is. Instead I thought, “This woman just took God’s Word and applied it directly, correctly to my error. That’s the kind of woman I need.”

Jesus was, as He is, indeed a friend to me when He gave me Denise. He was in turn a friend to her when He called her home. She would not even think of trading her years with Him for more years with me. She was not cheated of her due, but blessed beyond measure. Last year was her best birthday ever. This year is better still. She has Shannon with her. Last year was in turn her hardest birthday for me. This year is better though, because whether I reach that three score and ten norm or not, I am one year closer to being with my wife, my daughter, and my Friend.