Thursday, September 25, 2014

Writing Home: 10 Years Apart

The letter below was written to my mother-in-law, Mary Jean Huffman, at the 10-year mark of her passing into eternity.  I didn't know how to send it, so I put it here.

Dear Mary Jean,

You may not remember all the details, but you left us all for somewhere more permanent 10 years ago, September 25, 2004.  After you left, I got a call from your sister, Kathy.  You'd already been gone a few hours, but she wanted to let us get a little more sleep.  I'll never forget that ringing phone at 4:30 AM.  "Eli.  Mary Jean's gone."

The worst part of that early morning was telling Anne-Marie.  I'm sure it breaks your heart to think that's how it all happened, but it's the truth.

The even harder truth is that Kathy was only with us for 10 months after making that call before she left as well.  Though I don't know how things work over there, I'm pretty sure you already know that she left here in 2005 and have likely talked to her in person extensively.  If and when you get this letter, tell her that Darrell is doing great (but I'll let him tell his story in his own letter).

Your service was wonderful.  How could such a quiet and unassuming person have so many that loved her?  Family spoke, the choir sang and everyone enjoyed an amazing dinner prepared by some of your closest friends and plenty was left over.  People flew in from all over the country and we spent a few days together just as a family.

Over the next few months, or even couple of years, it was really hard to remember you weren't here.  Life went on as normal--at least that's how it appeared--but there was this continual ache.  A nagging pain that never seemed to heal.  We got together at the holidays a few months later and opened the gifts you bought for us (you always thought ahead and Phil was grateful) but it wasn't the same.  The gifts were all well chosen, but what is the gift without the giver?

I already mentioned Kathy.  I hope she's doing well.  I'm sure she is along with everyone else over there.  The whole family got together again in August the next year when Kathy left and we celebrated her life and shared memories of both of you.  Priscilla was there with us and was a reminder of how much joy the Denny girls gifted to the world.

I don't want to be the one to bring bad news when you've finally achieved the strength and peace we all wish for, but I'm fairly certain that someone who has arrived there more recently has already told you.  The following year both Priscilla and Anne-Marie got sick.  (I'm sure you know what with.)

I hesitate to write it, but I'm glad you were not here to see.  It was and has been a very difficult time in these eight years since.  The good news is that Priscilla was doing well last time I saw her, though that's been a couple of months.  I'm not sure if you remember that, unlike there, over here we are still separated by time and miles.

Anne-Marie has been a fighter.  Sometimes she reminds me so much of you.  She's been through a diagnosis and one recurrence, but with God's help has made it through every test, though many still lie ahead.  We still love each other through it all and celebrated our 13th anniversary a few weeks ago.

I know you always wanted to see our kids.  Would you believe it was five years after we last saw you before we became parents?  Of course, a lot of things happened to delay our dreams of being a family.  A lot of advice and prayer led us to an adoption from Ethiopia.  (Yes, Ethiopia in Africa.)  We adopted TWO kids five years ago.  They're lovely and we can't wait for you to see them.

Elisha and Mariah, now 5 years old

Adding them along with another grandkid you haven't seen yet, Ashley, you'll have a total of nine.

Allow me to say that if I would have known the last real conversation we were going to have would be on that Wednesday, I might have taken it more seriously.  I probably never thanked you for the birthday gift (I still have the card!), but things just moved so fast.  I guess a lot of people have that same story and have to learn to be thankful for the time they had.  And they were truly good times that I will always treasure.

Well, that's probably all of the major news I wanted to cover.  I apologize if you've already heard a lot of it from people who just got there.  Going by your timetable, you'll probably see me in person sooner than I would ever imagine.  Until then, I want you to know that I love you.

The family sends you love and greetings.

Your third son,


P.S. You may have met a guy named Keith up there.  It's true: a few years ago Phil re-married.  Her name is Ramona and I'm sure you two would have been best friends.

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