(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
One final word about our dear friend and sister, Roberta Stephens, who passed away suddenly from cancer last week. Her Memorial this weekend was a tribute to a life well-served. (For a video of the service, click on her name.)
The Memorial service was a great triumph and I especially appreciated what one pastor said in his remarks about how we have come to commonly say, “So-and-so lost their battle with cancer.” His answer to that was a resounding, “No!” Roberta didn’t lose her battle with cancer; she won it. Cancer and Satan no longer have any hold on her. Cancer only got her body; it could not touch her soul. She has broken free from the grip of this life into her glorious eternal body in the heavens. Cancer didn’t win. God did. He conquered sin, death and disease on the cross and claimed the ultimate victory for all of us who place our faith in Him.
We need to remember this in our brief tenure in this body because it is so easy to think that this is it. We get so focused on the here and now and on holding onto our lives and those around us that we love, and probably some that we don’t love so much if we were honest. But we’ve got to keep everything in perspective, and that’s why these “celebrations” of passing are so important. They put an eternal stamp on our current experience. It can’t be avoided. Someone we know and love is gone. We can’t get them back. We will not see them again. This is permanent. It hurts. We grieve, but as Paul says, “not as those who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
This is when you find out if your hope is real. Does it hold you up? Is it solid? Is it real? Or is this loss filling you with doubt and fear and feeling like hope is just a wish? If so, you need to go to Jesus, admit your doubt and fear, and tell Him, as one person did in the Bible, “Lord I believe; help Thou my unbelief.” That’s the thing about this hope. Once you know you have it, you have it. It’s just there. You don’t talk yourself into it. You know.
And now an important word from Marti about Roberta’s sister, Patti who has also served so well here at the Catch, along with her husband, Dave.
These last five days have been full of tears and smiles and yes, laughter, as we recognize Roberta is not going to be joining us for dinner. We are all exhausted from the highs of celebration and the lows of grieving. I know my sister, Patti, has been overwhelmed with everyone else’s emotions that she has not had an opportunity to embrace the loss of her sister.
As out-of-town guests kiss her goodnight and leave to pack up their belongings for early morning departures, Patti remains with her dear family to arrange for what has been left behind, like closing accounts, packaging Roberta’s keepsakes for extended family’s safe keeping, and settling her affairs. Patti is completely adequate to accomplish this. She, after all, cared for World Vision’s operations. But what she is not adequate to attend to is the sorting of her heart — the unpacking of memories to be relived first by herself, and then prepared to be presented to her children and grandchildren — all who stand the chance through her of inheriting the essence of Roberta and her legacy.
If you are connecting with me about the miles of emotional upheavals she must make for the betterment of others, put on your calendar to step into her life a week or two from now. This is because that is when she is going to need you — a listening ear, a shared cup of coffee, a call out of the blue to express your love for her for absolutely no reason. Yes, she has a husband who loves her more than himself. But also — yes — she has yet to understand the hole in her own heart that Roberta once filled. This is where we are needed. We cannot fill that space, regardless of how much we might want to. But we can — and I implore you to do so — step into her heart and see what she sees and feel what she feels, so that we might, through the power of the Holy Spirit, wrap Jesus’ arms around her through our own.