The family is celebrating another birthday today – Janet’s and Nancy’s sister, Debbie. Yesterday, it was our niece, Jessica, and today one of the members of the older generation celebrates her first birthday without her parents. And you know what? No matter what age you are, it isn’t easy to face the reality that your mother and father aren’t just a phone call away. And while most of us have faced this tragic reality, very few of us deal with the loss of both parents in the same year – much less within about a month of one’s birthday. So I am sure that it has been a difficult day for Debbie – I know it was for Janet. And it would be impossible for me to not identify with Debbie and the thoughts that are most certainly passing through her mind today.
I have known Debbie for more than 55 years now – that’s hard to believe. In many ways, I think of her as my sister as much as Janet’s. You see, I have two brothers but I don’t have any blood sisters. To be sure, I also feel close to Nancy, Janet’s younger sister, as well but there is enough of an age difference that she sometimes doesn’t share the same memories and events that those of us who were a little older remember with clarity. But know that it doesn’t diminish my love for Nancy, either.
I vividly remember when Debbie and Randy’s oldest son, John, was born. Janet and I used to sit for him when we were dating the summer we got married. And I vividly remember each home they have lived in and almost every car they have ever driven, and of course, the birth of Todd, their younger son. You might wonder whether I have the same memories with my own brothers that I have with Janet’s family and the resounding answer is, “no”. Our blood family was never as close as the Boyd clan and so I am quick to remember many events that have been imprinted in my mind.
Debbie’s life has so closely paralleled Janet’s that it is easy for me to grow old with both of them. On balance, it’s been a great ride. But as we age, even with strong marriages and family support, the loss of parents is inevitable and as I said earlier, it is never easy. Loss is loss. And grieving is the price that we pay for loving. But Debbie does have the undeniable love of family and friends to help fill the gap left by her recent loss.
Debbie is one of those quiet servants. She isn’t overly aggressive and tries to help wherever and whenever she can. She is “old school” – she saw her job of raising her boys as her highest priority. She and Janet are pretty much cut from the same cloth, and like I am, Debbie is an oldest child so I can identify with her. And as in Janet’s case, the last several years have been a little more difficult as their parents have grown more infirm. Life will never be the same.
But as Debbie knows in her heart, God is always there and will never forsake her. Neither will her family – that is our solemn vow. So while I know it is probably a sad celebration today, the verse for this evening reflects God’s love. We are told, in Heb. 13:5b-6, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” And that’s a promise of God. My encouragement this evening is that we will all face trials and tribulations with the passing of the years – and that includes the marching on of time marked by our own birthdays. My prayer is that you have a “sister” that is as close to you as I am to Debbie – it’s been a great blessing. Happy Birthday, Debbie. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…