Y2K in Review: A Bittersweet Year
You have to admit, moving into Y2K was unlike moving into any other year. It was the evening of December 31, 1999, and we were sitting around the table, just our family and our old friend Ron Mueller, just reflecting on all the hype and speculation about what was about to happen. Power shortages, computers crashing, telecommunications failures, civil services in disarray, stock markets crashing ... there was no end to speculation. Like everyone else we knew, we had put a little extra canned food in the cupboard and made sure we had batteries and spending money on hand. It was kind of exciting, really, not knowing the next curveball that might be thrown at you.
In hindsight, of course, it was all a bunch of hooey. No computers crashed, no planes came tumbling from the sky, entire cities weren't plunged into darkness. Life went on.
For such a banner year, 2000 now seems extremely ... well, ordinary. The kids continued to grow, we had our usual bouts with the common cold, and we made small steps of progress in our jobs. It was a great year for our church (we dug ourselves out of a financial hole); the kids for the most part got good grades in school; and the flowers came up in the springtime, just like usual.
There are other things about this year that will make it memorable for me personally. My mom had been struggling with breast cancer for several years, and in October the cancer won the battle. It was the first time I had ever lost anyone that important to me, and I learned a great deal about how important it is to be at peace with people and with God.
I don't think I ever really realized before how fundamentally pivotal your relationship with your parents really is. At my mom's "wake" (a rather strange tradition in the Deep South where friends and family spend several hours socializing in a room with your dear departed loved one laying silently in a casket in the middle of all the chatter, as quietly oblivious as a coffee table), one of her friends was telling me that in the four years he had known my mom, he had never heard her say anything negative about anyone. I started to say, "In the 43 years I've known her, I don't think I've heard her say anything negative about anyone either ..." when I was suddenly struck dumb by what I had just said. Forty-three years? For a 43-year-old, that's a heck of a long time. It might as well be an eternity. All the sudden, that history with my mother was coming to an end (or at least an interruption). From here on out, I would have thoughts spring into my mind which I would suddenly want to share with her ... but she has moved on, so what would I do with those insights? Who could I turn to? I don't know of anyone who really loved, was interested in, and encouraged me in the same way as my mother did. I don't really know of anyone I could TRUST in the same way.
I was very grateful to the Lord that my mother's passing was relatively quick and merciful. In late September, when her cancer was discovered in her liver, we learned that the prognosis was not good. My dad said, "They are telling us that she might have a year if she took more chemo, probably 3 months if she doesn't. And she has decided not to take any more chemo." Of course we were stunned by that. Three months? "Nonsense," my mom told us. She was a fighter and was convinced she would beat it.
We would have been far more stunned if we had known the truth, that within three weeks she would slip the surly bonds of earth. Don and I had planned a trip out to see her on October 24. On October 16 my dad called and said, "If you want to see her alive you had better accelerate your plans. The hospice care nurses are telling us she may not last the week." So on Wednesday afternoon, October 18, we caught the first flight we could find.
We had been in the air about an hour and had probably just crossed over Washington's eastern border with Idaho. It had been a terribly rushed morning, trying to tie up loose ends at work so we could get on the plane and leave for a week. I distinctly remember, after we finished a meal, looking over at my brother and seeing him sleeping in the seat next to me, and thinking how peaceful he looked. All of a sudden it was as if someone dimmed the lights in the room and one of those Thomas Kinkade paintings jumped out at you in three dimensions. I felt utterly "at home," filled with peace and rest. It was indescribable. I remember just laying back and enjoying that feeling, and thinking, "Thank you Lord, this is really neat. I guess you knew just how badly I needed this." Little did I know that the Lord was preparing my spirit for the news that would greet us as soon as we got off the plane, some five hours or so later, in Birmingham.
My father was there, late at night, at the airport to greet us, along with a family friend and our youngest brother, Lee. Though the meaning of my father's presence there (he hadn't left my mom's side in weeks) didn't assert itself immediately onto my consciousness, Don knew exactly what had happened, and so he was more prepared than I was when Dad pulled us aside and told us, with tears in his eyes, that Mom had gone to be with Jesus about five hours earlier. As far as I can tell, that was about the same time I had the experience on the plane.
The next week was a blur of preparations, sharing memories, celebrating our mom's life, and a wonderful time of reunion with family. The outpouring of love and compassion from my parents' church, from my colleagues at World Vision, and from my own church meant an incredible amount to me. I enjoyed the week a great deal, despite the circumstances; but I was eager to get home and be with my own family. Seeing my dad, for the first time in my life, without my mom made me realize how much I needed to treasure the time with my wife and children.
In the nearly three months since my mom's passing, I have done a lot of reflection. I am grateful that there was nothing unsaid or unforgiven between us. One of those things that is simply priceless is being completely reconciled to those you love, so that if they were ever to be taken unexpectedly away from you, you would not have to live with remorse or regret.
Naturally, I miss Mom a lot. Although I will probably get used to the feeling, I'm not sure this will ever change. However, I was actually surprised by the strength of my conviction that I will someday walk and talk with my mom again. Nothing seems more natural or more true to me now than the fact that God is preparing a place for those who love Him to be together for all eternity.
Perhaps the one lesson learned this year above any others is that life is way too short. Time is our most precious asset. It is a nonrenewable resource; to squander it is to lose it forever. But time is not an enemy to those who are called beloved by Him who transcends time, it is a friend. Our lives grow sweeter with the passing of days, and when the final day comes when our number is called, we will discover sweetness greater than we could ever hope or imagine.
It is my prayer that everyone reading this shares this hope. It is a hope based in reality. I can't imagine anything more sad than missing out on the central Truth of history, the reason there is death and sorrow and tears and joy and love. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life ... he who believes in Me, shall have eternal life."
We are grateful that the Lord has given us a wonderful year. Here are some of the highlights.
NATHAN: Last year he was working as a dishwasher at the "House of Kee," a local Chinese restaurant. At the beginning of the summer he got a new job as a cashier at "The Big K-Mart." He enjoys this job a lot, especially working in the electronics department (he has a real knack for electronics, especially computers). He puts in long, hard hours and is earning quite a bit of cash, between K-Mart and trading computer parts online.
Nathan has applied to Western Washington University, since he will graduate this spring from Rogers High School. WWU, located up in Bellingham, has an excellent computer science program, and Nathan has a good Christian friend, Isaac, who attends there.
Nathan turned 18 on December 23. (It's hard to believe it's been that long since Christmas morning, 1982, when we brought him home from the hospital in a huge red stocking!)
MANDY: Mandy enjoyed traveling to California and Alabama this summer. In California, she got to surf, skate, and sun with her Uncle Gary and Aunt Deborah. She dreams about returning some day. In Alabama, she and her dad spent a week with Grandma and Grandpa Short. At that time Grandma was even feeling well enough to be wheeled around the farm on the back of the four-wheeler.
Mandy has been actively involved in singing on the worship team at church with her mom and dad, and also in the school choir. She does excellent in her studies and enjoys good times with friends at church. She is also making a killing doing babysitting for all the young families at church.
DARLENE: Darlene continued her work as a school nurse for the Puyallup School District this year, splitting her time between three different schools. She enjoys this a lot, and especially likes being off for summers and extended holidays. When not working, she kept busy shuttling Mandy and other kids in the youth group at church around from place to place, singing on the worship team, and working in the church nursery.
LARRY: Larry is now working on his fourth boss (and fourth office) since beginning the Internet program at World Vision almost four years ago. He now has three fulltime employees reporting to him and several volunteers. The Internet program is generating about $750,000 per month in revenue for World Vision, which makes for pretty good job security. This year the program was expanded quite a bit and his role focused on the creative/content production side of the program.
He is wrapping up a one-year term as chairman of the elder board for Elim, and for the last half of the year led one of three worship teams in the absence of a professional worship leader. In the coming year, while remaining on the elder board, he hopes to focus his efforts on improving church communications, primarily by continuing to develop and promote the church website and Intranet. He also plans to take two more MBA classes from Hope International University, and finish staining our deckwork.