My dad was killed in an auto accident in August of 1971. I was born in November of 1969, so my dad passed away about three months before I turned two.
Death is a thief. I've known it forever but I'm being reminded of it this week.
Death has taught me a few things.
1. Bad things happen. Don't think that it won't happen to you because it will.
2. To avoid the pain that death brings, hold back. Don't love completely. This makes pain more manageable when death shows up.
3. Trust only yourself because others will be stolen away and therefore can not be trusted.
Those are things I started learning when I was two.
Not great lessons.
Not true lessons but death never claimed to be a truth distributor.
I could tell stories upon stories about how the deception of those lessons have hurt me, my family and my marriage but today is not the day for that.
Today is the day for another story. This one is a story of best friends.
Jayne has always and forever will be my best friend. We are second cousins, we grew up in the same church, and attended the same schools until we graduated high school.
I don't know when I gave my heart to her but I gave it completely. She was my safe place. She was. She simply was.
I spent a lot of time with her and her family growing up. I remember countless nights sitting with Jayne, her parents, and her three sisters around the dinner table. I was always so shy and awkward and hated eating in front of other people. I have no idea why. As awkward as I felt with them at their dinner table, I kept coming back.
Jayne's parents are Earl and Eva Erb. When I was growing up, Earl had a big red barn full of dairy cows downstairs and some pigs upstairs. Every time we drove to town we would pass the big red barn and I always had to sneak a glance at it. On the side of the barn that faced the highway, Earl had his name painted. In big white letters, it read:
"EARL E. ERB."
I loved seeing it. There it was. Every time I drove by, "Earl E. Erb" in big white letters on the big red barn.
Earl and Eva took me to an Abundant Life Conference at Bingeman Park when I was 12 or 13. That was the first time I went forward to make a faith commitment. I was wearing red cotton pants and a white eyelet blouse and when I left the stage to go find Jayne, the first person I saw was Eva. She was standing near a doorway watching for me and when she saw me she grabbed me and hugged me tight. Earl was close behind her and when she let go, Earl took his turn.
I had no idea what had just happened to me at the front. Some guys put their hands on my head and prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what that meant. By the time I reached Eva, I was jittery and confused. I had gone forward because I wanted all in. I wanted to say yes. I wanted Jesus. But the guys with their hands on my head were confusing me. I didn't understand what they were saying and I think they were waiting for me to speak in tongues. I didn't, and finally they let me go. I walked from them straight into Eva's arms and though I was still confused, I at least felt safe. I'd figure this out and Earl and Eva were there.
Earl was a bit larger than life for me. He was Jayne's dad, her real dad and I was fascinated by it. My mom had remarried and I had a step-dad who loved me, but Jayne had a real dad. I knew that my real dad had existed, I was proof of of that, but I didn't remember touching him or him looking at me. He was dead. He had been alive once but now he was dead. But Earl was Jayne's real dad and I could watch him with Jayne. The way he touched her, the way he looked at her, the way he laughed with her. He was her real dad. Completely and utterly fascinating to me.
He laughed. He scolded. He gave orders. He smiled and asked questions. He'd watch TV after milking was done. He hugged. He'd hang out in his living room packed full of teenagers and his rosy cheeks would be shiny as he laughed and enjoyed being with us.
He was a read dad.
Yesterday I got a text from Jayne's husband. He 's been keeping us updated on Earl's current condition. Earl has been taken over by cancer and it has moved in quickly.
It's devastating and mind boggling and I'm all the way here in Iowa. My heart goes out to Eva and her girls. I want to drive to Jayne's house and just be there. I wouldn't have anything to say or do but I just feel like I should be with her.
I don't have an ending for this story. Not today. There really won't be an ending. Death may come and take Earl away but Earl belongs to Jesus and there's a heavenly banquet ready and waiting. Death has no sting for Earl, the grave has no victory.
But I'm typing and crying.
I love you Jayne. I love Earl and I just can't wrap my mind around everything that I've been told.
I'm praying. I wish there was more I could do but I can't so I'll keep praying.
Thank you Earl. Thanks for living a life that I will always remember by your rosy cheeks, your big smile and your easy laugh.
Thanks for EARL E. ERB.