Last Saturday, for the first time in almost a year, I didn’t write a story. Honestly, I just couldn’t. I did have company, and that was a sweet blessing, but I just did not have the energy to write something uplifting. Some of you were affected last week by loss, and some of you may have had no idea that many people we know were grieving so horrifically from losses that are unexplainable and truly unfathomable. In the last few months, a couple of the paralegals I am fortunate enough to work with, Cindy and Samantha, have lost their grandparent and mother. Cindy is the granddaughter of Mr. Clyde Barnette who died last week, and I did not even realize they were connected! What a great man he was, and his children are proof of that. My children loved his son Dan Barnette’s class more than any other in high school, and to my displeasure, he turned them into debaters (or bigger debaters than they already were, I guess). His history class helped them see that current events were important and had impact on our lives and on future generations. Samantha lost her mother recently, and as I’ve watched her posts about her grief, I’ve thanked God I still have my mother and prayed for her that somehow she can feel some peace.
Last week also brought two tragedies in families of people we know that just had no meaning, no good purpose that could be seen, no way these things could be God’s perfect will. When we were in Israel last year, we met Jo Flowers Denny, a young married woman traveling with her parents who were pastors in Alabama. We got to know them a bit while on the trip, but I regret we didn’t spend much time with them until the trip was almost over. Jo was married and her husband was not able to come on the trip because of work obligations. I imagine it was extremely hard for her to be there alone, as the sights of Israel are best to be shared with someone of like belief, someone who cares about these things as much as you do. Last week, her 22-year-old husband was killed in a motorcycle crash. Can you imagine? Young, full of love, serving Christ with all you have, and your husband is wiped out in an instant. How do you cope?
And then there’s more…some of you know Fallon, a beautiful, vibrant, always-smiling teller at BB&T. Her young 12-year-old son was also killed last week – her joy, her delight, her whole life wrapped up in this child….gone, just in the snap of a finger. I truly cannot imagine the pain, the grief, the questions, the rage, the futility of going on. For some reason, these losses to people I know peripherally, yes, to say hello, to engage in polite chit-chat, but don’t know well, don’t know their hopes and dreams, or even whether their loved ones knew the Lord, these losses affected me in unexpected ways. Just too much, too too much. I have never questioned God’s sovereignty, and I’m not questioning it now, but there are things that happen that are extremely hard to accept and hard to understand.
Talia is starting a new business, distributing purses and jewelry for salon owners to feature in their salons, and we had planned a New York City trip to purchase the products that will be sold. Exciting trip, you’d say, huh? We’ve been before and we have tons of stories that someday I will tell, and we always love time together and in the city, even just people watching. We both were anxious to go but also dreading it for some reason. We drove up Monday night and began our shopping experience on Tuesday morning. I pooped out after five hours at Macy’s and went back to the motel while Tal checked out a few things down the street. My phone rings, and the number was Jackson General. That’s weird.
I had spent part of Saturday morning and all of Sunday morning at the hospital with my friend Sandy who had an allergic reaction to hair dye. Her face had swollen up, eyes almost shut, but she wasn’t having trouble breathing or anything. They gave her a shot on Saturday and we went to the drug store and got her prescriptions, got her settled in at home, and she was doing fine. Sunday morning, she was afraid she wasn’t getting better, so after I checked her out, we thought we better let them look at her again. They gave her another shot and sent her home.
I checked on her Monday while we were driving and she was doing well, thought it was getting better. On Tuesday, I’d gotten a text that she had been taken to the hospital by ambulance as her neighbors thought she wasn’t doing too well and were nervous. Kim was at work and I was in NYC, so they called the squad. I’d gotten another text that she was doing fine at the hospital and all is well. So when the caller ID is Jackson General, I thought it had to be Sandy just checking in from their phone.
The nurse asks me to identify myself and then wants to know if I am Sandy’s medical POA. I didn't think I was - thought Kim was - but I questioned why they needed to know and if I could help. They wanted to know if she had a Do Not Resuscitate. What? Why did they need to know that? I practically screamed, “Are you telling me she’s coded?” “Yes, she has.” Instantly, I said, ‘”Then yes, absolutely, resuscitate – she is just over 50 years old and in great health!” We hung up so they could get ahold of Kim for the more official word, and I’m left 500 miles away from home not knowing what was going on. I call the Pastor, who had been there just before my call and said she was fine. In the end, it was true – she had gone to the restroom, come back out and said her side hurt, and literally dropped dead. Doctors don’t know why, no one knows why. She was 55 years old and had no serious health issues.
I have never felt so lost, so totally bereft with “What to do now?” Tal came back and once I told her, she said, “We need to go home, we’ll just go home.” There was nothing we could do at home at that point, and this was our time, our only time, to be in NYC to get this done. Her body was being donated to science, so there was not even a body to be taken care of. We decided to stay and do what we needed to do and get home asap. I still cannot get over the fact that when I left, my friend was perfectly fine, and when I return home, she has simply disappeared, just gone, gone. Oh, I know where she is – she was a devout Christian and is surely in heaven today. I guess the human part of me just needed to see something. All night that night, I kept having these strange desires to pray for her – I kept being pressed to “pray for Sandy.” Ridiculous – Sandy didn’t need prayer, she’s gone. Then I’d have this desire to tell her how sorry I was that this had happened to her. I could not get my mind into reality, into the appropriate way to think – what is that anyway, when you’ve lost someone so suddenly? What are you supposed to think?
Sandy had come to Ripley as a homeless person – she had been told by God to leave where she was and go to Ripley, West Virginia. Can you imagine doing that? She came here in her car and was living in the homeless shelter in Ripley when my sister Kim encountered her and befriended her. She eventually got adopted into our family, and she called Kim and I sister, and we all loved her like family. She had been abused as a child and ended up in foster care, and frankly, needed a loving family, and it was our privilege to adopt her. She taught us things we truly needed to know, and we taught her what it meant to be part of a family by choice and love and commitment, not by Court order or bad consequences.
One thing I’ve learned in these past two weeks: Grief is not emotional – it is physical. Grief and loss are like a 100-pound boulder sitting on the top of your head, sucking the energy out of your body. It can make you feel like you’re going to throw up, literal nausea that is as real as when you have the flu. I wonder how many people we pass by every day who are suffering from loss and depression, who can hardly put one foot in front of the other? Talia and I usually get so excited to be together, to shop, to see all the new things. This week, it was a chore, a literal chore, slogging through the streets of New York City, surrounded by strangers, pushing and shoving. I mean, really, who can get excited about a purse in the face of all the lifechanging things that are happening to people? Some of the things we do are so dumb, they truly are. I’m not saying her business is dumb, and I am thrilled she’s doing it, as she’s perfect for this business plan she has, but it isn’t going to change a life, change an eternity, you know?
What does it take for us to have eyes like Jesus has? For us to see things as He sees them, to know that EVERYTHING is spiritual? Because really, what else matters? We’ve seen in the past two weeks that mere seconds exist between life and death, and there is no protection for even Christians from being taken out of this life without any warning. But what about those who don’t call Jesus their Savior? What are we doing to help them, to show them that there is a peace to be had in this world, that we can KNOW where we will go if we are taken out of this world in an instant? I am preaching to myself, please know that.
Sandy was big about “paying it forward.” She got so excited about Christmas – she bought things all year long. Last week, the day of the famous hair dye spell, she was finishing wrapping the presents for “all the girls,” as she called our family of women: Mom, Kim, Tal, Molli, Cas, even the grandkids. She was one of the most generous people I have ever known, who had very little to give but got such joy in doing it. I pray God gives me His spirit, His eyes, so I can see the world the way He sees it. I want that so badly; I want my life to be a help to other people, to leave a legacy of sewing His love into people so that if I’m the one jerked out in the blink of an eye, I have left something behind me that matters, that will count for eternity.
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.