Saturday, May 19, 2012

How a Believer Passes

Let me first get this out of the way. I knew, I just knew, that sometime during this week, SOMEONE would quote I Corinthians 15:55:

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

OK, I get it. For the believer, physical death is not the end. We close our eyes here and open them in glory. When our time comes, it’s blink blink and we’re there. Death does not win. Christ overcame death. For this, I am eternally grateful.

And, I know I should not pick and choose, taking a phrase out of context but let me anyway. “Where is your sting?” ARE YOU KIDDING???? My sister-in-law has died. My baby brother’s wife. His kids’ mom. A daughter. A sister. A friend to many. And it stings. It hurts. And even though time will help to lessen the pain, as our hearts are wounded, it will never go away.

We all will find a new normal. ‘Things will get back to normal,’ they say. Only that normal will include a hole, an empty space that nothing can fill. Not ever.
Another text from the week is  II Corinthians 5:6-8  Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

I get this, too. When it’s all parsed out, I know that Janelle is where we all prefer to be; sometimes that’s hard to remember because life here can be pretty darned good. But in the depths of our souls, we long for heaven. I’ll see Janelle again, in whatever reality that heaven is.

OK, done with the rant: on with the report.

Family and friends converged on Charlotte this week, to mark the passage of Janelle Hayes; she died May 10 of an aggressive brain tumor. My brother Ken reported that there was time for him and the kids to sit with her, hold her hands, and tell her they would be OK and that she could go. He said that she closed her eyes after that and shortly “left us.”

Janelle, as well as her extended family, was a believer. She asked God to heal her. She pleaded with God to heal her, if it was within His will. And she was as ready as one human can be to accept that will.

When it became clear that her healing would take place in heaven, I was not sure if Mike would be able to go, physically or otherwise. Long trips present challenges, from comfort to medication requirements. Also, he and Janelle had formed a special bond since her diagnosis last August. I had suggested that this gathering, the family and all, would be like a dress rehearsal.

            But it was all his idea. I knew it would be hard. He LIKES hard. “I owe it to her,” I believe were his exact words. We drove straight through on Sunday and back on Wednesday.  Sunday night, while Mike and I crashed and slept, I hear that the cousins entertained each other with stories (true and otherwise) about their various parents. On Monday morning, the extended contingent crammed into the Hayes home.

One of the reasons we sisters began our annual get-together was that as we stood around my dad’s casket in 2000, we realized we were becoming a cliché; we were only physically seeing each other at funerals. We decided to change that.

Me and my guy
Funerals DO serve that purpose. I don’t remember the last time so many cousins had sat around a table together. They had time to go out, just the cousins, several times. I do not know much about this nor do I choose to try to find out.

            Ken and his daughter Britt had firmed up all of the arrangements. Monday was for visiting. Monday night was for visiting the family at the church where Janelle had directed their day school. Lines of former students and present students with parents stretched down the hall. Ken and Britt arranged that Janelle’s casket, while open, was turned away so visitors could choose to ‘view’ or ‘not view.’ Britt and the cousins had decorated and arranged pictures and mementos to commemorate Janelle’s life. At Britt’s direction, her mother’s body wore her Sisters’ pin. Nice touch, Britt.

The sisters: Lynne, Kris, and Jan
            The evening was full of reminiscences, happy stories that underscored how sad is her passing. Then it was back to the house for more visiting. 

            The next day, we drove out away from Charlotte to the cemetery, a beautifully maintained park with walk ways, gazebos and benches for resting. Here was the graveside funeral of our wife, mom, sister, cousin, friend, and teacher. It had been drizzling all morning. As we entered and took our seats, the sun broke through and the birds began to sing. What a gift from God to all who mourn.

Then, back to the house and back to the Hampton. Tuesday night, we gathered at Steel Creek Church for a celebration of Janelle’s life. Ken wanted, as he knew his Janelle wanted, that this would be a praise and worship time, that all in attendance would know that Janelle was at home with her Lord.

Ken had asked the sisters (Jan, Kris and me) to say something. Apparently, everybody in Charlotte who knew Janelle already knew the sisters as she talked about us and our annual get-togethers quite often. We wore some sister gear, our custom shoes and shirts, and said our brief thing. Besides Ken’s introduction, our niece Brittany took the microphone and spoke of her mom. It was hard for her and she carried it off with class.

Then, a brief message from Kelvin Smith, their pastor. Part of his text was from Corinthians 13. He zeroed in on the last verse:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

He raised the question: the GREATEST is Love? Really? We are saved by faith. We live with hope. So why is love the greatest?

Because it is eternal. Janelle does not need faith. She’s with her Lord. She does not need to hope for heaven. She’s there. But love….it is for here AND there.

Another nice touch.
Then, Uncle Steve Amerson closed it out with “How Great Thou Art,” and “Be Exalted.”   (

Back to house again for several hours of joyous fellowship. The Hayes part of the family can be a bit loud.
The cousins had time to hang out and make fun of their parents.

Then, we said our goodbyes and prepared to return home. Brother Ken went from that chaos to an empty house. That has to be another difficult thing.

From here, we know that Ken is surrounded by friends, many from his church family. We know that they will check on him and help him as he needs. We know that Ken will find his way because God will help him.

We know that Janelle is happy and healed. But we will be sad now…we will long to see her again.
Below are some shots from the week.
Grandma Hayes (right) and some of her grandchildren

Girls and Grandma


  1. You brought tears to my eyes again. So beautiful worlds

  2. Lynne, glad your whole family got to be there with Ken. You described the event so beautifully, so glad you were able to celebrate Janelle's life, as well as mourn it. Our family continues to pray for your family every day.