Janet called me around dinner time this evening and told me that her father had just passed away several minutes before. As I have said before, I have known my father-in-law for more than a half century and once again, for the second time in under three weeks, the family is steeped in grief – this time, trying to process the loss of its patriarch. And it wasn’t an easy death. John suffered in the 18 days since Nancy’s death, Janet’s mother and John’s wife of 66 years.
While we struggle with this loss, we know that John is reunited with Nancy and in a better place. Somehow, tonight, those words seem somewhat hollow, although I believe them with all my heart. And while I am already in the process of preparing the memorial service message for Monday, there is one all consuming item on my mind that is impossible to ignore.
Since the very beginning of my association with the Boyd family, back in 1959, I have watched in amazement and great admiration as they have dealt with both adversity and success with grace. Whereas many families have sibling rivalries and jealousies, these just don’t exist between Janet and her two sisters, Debbie and Nancy. Throughout the trials and tribulations of the past year or two with the unrelenting decline of their parents’s health, I have watched as they have cared for their parents and loved them well throughout the entire process.
And while I can’t tell you how much I wanted to be in Williamsburg to comfort Janet, it has been clearly evident that John and his three daughters wanted to share this most sacred end of life event privately – as a nuclear family. And I understand and respect that – so I have waited here in Carmel until asked to travel to Williamsburg in the morning. Since last Saturday, Janet and her sisters have stood a constant vigil at their father’s side and have acted as one. I know in my family, my brothers and I could never have been as united as Janet and her sisters have been throughout the years. It is an honor to witness.
Not only do they love one another as sisters, but they have unparalleled respect and love for their parents – and always have… they are a truly remarkable family. In the early years, I was envious of their closeness – something that I wish we had in my family as a kid. But as I grew older and saw the genuine relationships these three women have with one another, I was honored to be accepted as one of their own. Yes, there have been times, such as this week, when the sisters have chosen to close ranks and it would have been disrespectful for me, or either of the other husbands, to have interfered with John’s wishes to spend his last days with his daughters.
As long as I have known her, Janet has always had tremendous faith – the source of her unbelievable courage and strength. But in the forty years I have been married to Janet, I have never admired her as much as I have this past month – and in particular, tonight. The grace and humility with which she served her father, with her sisters, is beyond description. Her selflessness and humility are traits that I wish I possessed to a much greater degree. Her stability, loyalty, capacity to love and desire to serve are beyond description. I am unbelievably blessed to be her husband.
It is impossible for me to fathom that this family unity could have happened without the guidance and modeling of this behavior from Janet’s folks. What a testament and legacy to their love and skill as parents – a lasting tribute to their commitment to their family – and to their faith. The verse this evening is a well known one from Hebrews – the famous chapter on faith – the source of Janet’s strength. We are told in Heb. 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” At times like this, it is impossible to get through the grief without faith and an abiding belief in Jesus Christ.
My encouragement this evening is that you can have great faith also. It’s a gift from God and the best way to get it is to pray for it. That’s right – faith is a gift from God. You can’t earn it – but God can give it to you! My prayer is that God will increase your faith, no matter how strong it may already be. Because faith generates courage and strength – traits that I see every day in the woman I married – Janet. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…