Dear Lillie

Dear Lillie,

I thought the hardest part of your mom’s death would be the service, and it was hard, specifically when both your father and mine got up to pay her tribute. Both of them are rather private men; I know it was hard. But when you cried in my arms, that was even harder.

It isn’t that I thought that you shouldn’t have cried. I didn’t see how you hadn’t before. I was so proud of you as you sang and read Faith’s prayer. I could not have done that at my mother’s funeral. I was proud that you stood by your dad’s side during that hard five days, that you went with him to make funeral arrangements. I know that your mom would have been pleased,too. Since she could not be there to support your dad, you were there in her stead.

No, I was remembering when my mother died. You were about Graham’s age, not quite nine. You, Russell and your mom had been over taking care of Grandma just before she died. And when you came to the funeral, you crawled on my lap and cried. You cried so hard that my shirt was wet. You thought that if you had stayed, Grandma would not have died. And I wanted to comfort you, so I told you that Grandma knew you loved her, and you would see her again some day in heaven. You cried harder then, and when I asked you what was wrong, between sniffles you managed to get out that you wished heaven was now. I cried too, then. It was my mom lying in the casket, and someday seemed way too far away. The fact that you missed Mom that way too was a huge comfort to me.

So yesterday, when you cried, I felt like I was holding the little girl again. I was remembering your words of a few days ago, that classes had started and you hadn’t visited her as much as you should have. You felt guilty. Again. And I wasn’t any more help than I had been before. I still can’t make heaven be sooner. And I still can’t take the hurt away. But I can reassure you that your mother loved you, and she would have understood.

I hope the service helped you. It helped me. I liked the way the pastor started out, reading the obituary and then saying that your mom’s life was so much more than just those facts. And it was. I was too little to remember, but did you know that she danced on stage at the Colony Theater with Soupy Sales? She was fearless! And I did not know before Grandpa shared that her Christian witness had started so young. Your mom had the gift of hospitality, and the ladies who spoke yesterday were certainly blessed by it.

And you know what? I don’t think it even mattered to the people there that the last few years have been so hard. I was grateful, too, that the pastor pointed that out. That verse he quoted from Romans 8:38-39 says:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NOTHING, Lillie! Not even mental illness. I am so glad that the pastor reminded those of us who loved your mom that no matter what we saw, your mom was NOT separated from the love of God. And I think, maybe, that that’s one of the biggest lessons she would want you to learn from this. She may have been beaten down, but she did NOT lose in the end. And actually, because the pastor gave an invitation to accept Jesus, your mom evangelized just one more time. I know of at least one person seated in that auditorium who has not accepted Christ, and I prayed harder than usual yesterday that he would hear and believe.

Did you get a chance to talk to the cousins that came? I haven’t seen Jeff for more than twenty years. His mom died thirty-four years ago, and he still misses her. He said that sometimes he just cries out, “Mom, I need you! Why aren’t you here?” The statement brought tears to my eyes because I still miss Grandma like that sometimes and I had her for forty years. You only had your mom for nineteen years, and many of those years she was ill.

I can’t promise you that the years ahead of you will be easy. Your brother asked me that as he watched Grandpa. He said, “Does it get easier as you get older? Do you understand more?” And I had to tell him no. You just know that you will live through the things that seem to hard to bear.

So when those times come that you cry out, that you are lonely and miss your mother’s arms, I hope you will remember the celebration of her life. I hope you will remember that she loved Jesus and she told others about him. I hope you will remember the friend that came to the hospital and braided her hair, one last service to her before she left this earth. And I hope you will cry out to Jesus because, honey, she’s with Him. I hope you will let His arms hold you in her stead.

I still can’t make heaven come now, Lillie. But I can remind you of what awaits you when you get there. Like I said, your mom would be proud of you. And when you meet her in heaven, those hugs will be waiting.

Deborah J. Montgomery, 59, of Jerusalem Twp., OH passed away peacefully Friday, September 8, 2006, at the Medical University of Ohio. She was born July 21, 1947, in Fairmount, WV to Clarence and Betty Gump. A devout Christian she was active in various church activities which included, Sunday School Teacher, Jr. Church, Puppet Theater, School Librarian and Church Mission work. Deborah is survived by her loving husband, of 39 years, John; children, Faith E. (Andrew) Furtney, Russell K. (Melissa) Montgomery and Lillie A. Montgomery; grandchildren, Rana Daye, Tasha Rose, Amos and Christa Joy Furtney and one on the way. She is also survived by her father, Clarence Gump and siblings, David Gump, [Rebekah] Carpenter and Amy Fitkin.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phillipians 1:21

I love you, Lillie.

Aunt Becky


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September 2006
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