There are times in our lives when certain scriptures can take on new meaning for us! When their weightiness and relevance in our lives almost causes our breath to catch. March 20, 2012 was one of those days...
A phone ringing at 4am is never the bearer of good news and this morning was no different. I answered the phone with trepidation, imagining my world was about to tilt slightly off center and I was right. My dear and treasured friend, Janet Dukes, had died. Died? Janet? Surely my mind was still just fuzzy with the lingering effects of sleep and this was all just a bad dream.
Sadly, it was true. Sadly, many of us had just lost one of the most loyal and caring friends a person could ever hope to know. Our world had been rocked...but at the same time our world was beginning its spin out of control, Janet's world was becoming divinely righted, illuminated and filled with the sounds of angelic choirs welcoming her Home. She was hearing those treasured words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." I KNOW she heard those words because I KNOW Janet ran this race well, especially at the end.
Janet's race had been marked with painful events, loss of those she loved, physical ailments that caused her ongoing pain, and financial burdens tough to bear. When most people start slowing down because the speed bumps in life prove to be too much for them, Janet was just finding her groove. Janet was learning to radiate a joy few possess. Janet was learning to rejoice thru her suffering and Janet was learning what it meant to be a true disciple of Christ.
Janet has a son named Cody. To say that Cody was the apple of Janet's eye would be like saying on a clear day that the sky is kinda blue...big understatement!! God and Cody were the reason Janet did most of what she did. Cody was never far from her thoughts or her side and that boy took care of his Mama. All of us on the fall ladies' retreat saw that firsthand!
Money was so very tight for Janet and we had some girls pitch in to make sure she got to join us on our trip to FL. We slipped her some money here and there for meals and she had the time of her life. She got to put her feet in the ocean, listen to the sound of the waves and go on a boat ride to watch the dolphins. One of the first days she was there she opened her Bible and found a note. It was from Cody and it was wrapped around $15. $15 of his own money that had he had slipped in there so she could have a little extra fun on him. That's love!!
Janet was getting ready to have a makeover on stage when Beloved comes to the church in April. She was so excited about her makeover because she said she was going to finally be beautiful in her new outfit, with her fancy hairdo and her face carefully made up. We assured Janet that all those things, although fun, could do little to improve upon the natural radiance she possessed! Janet was always beautiful!!!
At Christmas when people come out of the woodwork needing help to provide presents for their kids, Janet could have been the first in line. She was too busy to line up to receive her own gifts, though...she was collecting presents for the kids at her daycare. I took some bags of things over to her house and her living room was full of items already collected. She cleaned them up, wrapped them carefully and lovingly delivered them to her daycare kids to ensure that they, too, would not be overlooked at Christmas. Janet wasn't focused on her own lack for her heart was overflowing with love and care for others.
That's how Janet was...always looking for opportunities to be a blessing to others. Whether it was meeting with her SMILES girls, serving Friday nights at Rivers of Mercy so she could love on kids who lived on the street, babysitting her friend's kids...the list was endless. Even as recently as this last Sunday, Janet was figuring out a way to be a blessing to someone else. She pointed out a girl in the church and said she was going to pay for her to go on the ladies' retreat in November. She was always so encouraged by the ways others had blessed her and she said that she had just gotten her income tax return and was going bless her friend. That's just how Janet rolled.
While many struggle with working to attain more, Janet was content with what she had. The first time I went to Janet's home she proudly showed me around. Many would have seen a simple trailer on lot A6, but Janet's ability to look at things thru a lens of thankfulness strangely transformed that place into something much grander. She happily introduced me to her new washer and dryer that now made it possible for her to wash their clothes at home and she showed me her cozy room in the back. It was peaceful there.
Janet took care of people...just ask her mom and dad! Walt and Betty were her other 2 sidekicks and constant companions. They lived next door to each other the last year of Janet's life and as Walt said the morning she died, they were best friends! She loved her mom and dad and she was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they were taken care of. Janet was loyal to those she loved.
As I sat in the dark after we got the call of her death, trying to let the truth of those words truly sink in, I admit I had questions. Why? When there are so many rude, hateful, selfish people that could have taken their last breath that day instead of Janet...why her? When now a 14yo son has to say goodbye to the one who loved him more than life itself...why? When a mom and dad must now let go of yet another child...why? Help me make sense of it all, Lord!
And there it was, the faintest whisper, but audible none-the-less...
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."
Does it erase the pain? No! Does it make the longing to see her just one more time any less consuming? No! It reminds us, though, that our vantage point is so unreliable for making sense out of sovereign decisions. The One who first breathed life into Janet's nostrils 51 short years ago decided to call for that breath back. The One who gave His only Son so that Janet could know forgiveness and redemption welcomed her Home with open arms.
We're going to miss you, Janet. You have left a gaping hole in our midst and it will take a while for the hole to begin to close and for life to find a new rhythm without you. I will miss your almost daily texts telling me you love me and are praying for me. I will miss your posts on our BLOOM page encouraging us girls to have a good day. I will miss your radiant smile and your readiness to pitch in whenever there is a need. I will miss watching you press hard into Jesus and make tough decisions because you want to honour Him. You laid it all on the line and left this world with no need for regrets. You loved well, you loved fiercely and you loved in a very visible and tangible way.
Good job, girl!! You are one of my heroes and my life is so much richer as a result of knowing you!!