On Palm Sunday when we were kids, it was the custom (as we exited the church building after services) for an usher to give each of us a small palm branch to carry home. It was an odd thing, meant (I suppose) to commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem while riding a donkey. John 12:13 tells us “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” and they acknowledged Jesus as “the king of Israel.”
Looking at the palm leaves (the above image is just one example), I’m struck today by their beauty and symmetry. During childhood, I think we used the branches to tickle and torment each other. Today, my usual impulse is one of contemplation. These green fronds hold the last droplets of morning dew and invite peaceful reflection.
Amid the usual fast-paced business of this past week, moments of reflection have offered a welcome parenthesis. On Friday (the 8th), we observed the birthday of my sister Nadja Kae whose brief life (14 months) kick-started my childhood acquaintance with death. We knew her as a toddler but can’t help wondering what she’d have been like had she lived into adulthood.
On Monday (the 4th), we also honored the memory of my sister-in-law Terri whose sudden death last December 10th shocked us all. Four months have removed her smiling face from our midst, four months during which – with some difficulty – we have continued our lives. Observation of holidays and birthdays as well as other milestones took place despite the painful reminder of Terri’s empty chair.
Moving from room to room around my home, I see mementos of Terri’s giving spirit everywhere. Original paintings decorate the walls. Art supplies remain, as our pre-school twin granddaughters received art instruction from their great-aunt. She doted on them and they eagerly absorbed her instruction.
Meanwhile at my brother’s house, Eric has been sorting through more than 55 years of prized memories. In the process of sorting, he’s gathered 29 journals Terri wrote through the years – twenty-nine personalized remembrances of life’s blessings and challenges. I’ve been privileged to read some. On her birthday in 2007, Terri noted her 58 years by asking, “How many more years will I have? If God wills, perhaps 12 more years for then I’ll be 70 … no one knows how long he or she has.”
Earlier in that same journal entry, Terri mused: “What would I do if the Lord takes Eric home before He takes me?” On the day of a subsequent birthday, she pondered: “Where have the years gone? How could I be 63 years old and have little time remaining on this earth?”
Terri’s final journal (pictured at right) is entitled The Farmington Years inside the front cover. She began writing in it after she and Eric returned to Arkansas and lived near us. Though the initial entry is dated February, 2021, she notes the awful changes in life from the early days of the 2020 pandemic.
Unfortunately, this final journal includes less than a dozen entries, all in her artful and perfect handwriting. On one day, she wrote with black ink, another day with peacock blue ink and another with purple or red. She loved color and a fountain pen was her favored instrument of words-on-paper delivery. As with the beauty and symmetry of a palm frond, Terri imprinted her art and writing with the same kind of heaven-sent loveliness.
Terri’s last journal entry is dated Saturday, November 20, 2021, with a time stamp of 11:30 p.m. My Beloved and I enjoyed a scrumptious dinner that evening with Eric and Terri. As was Terri’s custom, she often wrote in her journal after Eric had gone to bed. In this entry, she notes: “My life has gone by so quickly ….” Further down, she adds, “Each day is God’s Gift to us … [which] will soon end and the beauty of Heaven and God’s radiant Light will begin and never end.”
Less than three weeks after this journal entry, we bid Terri adieu and she entered into God’s radiant Light. As we continue to grieve the loss of our sister and dearly-loved friend, we will continue to honor her memory and cherish the incredible legacy she left behind in 29 handwritten journals in which she shared her deep love for Jesus Christ and her desire to serve Him every day which remained for her. Her legacy will live on in those who loved her!