Jeremiah 49:11 Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive.
Your widows too can depend on me.’”
Widowed. It was never a word I expected to be applied to me. Yet, for the last two days, as I stood at my husband of 41 years viewing, graveside, and memorial service, that word was repeated to me over and over as loving people whispered comforting scriptures in my ears.
I am not afraid. I know God and my children will take care of me and of each other.
We were married 41 rocky years. And even though it was rocky and we hurt each other a lot, we still did a lot of good things, too. We brought seven children into the world by birth, and five more into our family by adoption. That continues in the lives of our nine grandchildren,and hopefully many more to come.
It was rocky, but we depended on each other in ways I am only now beginning to realize. His last phone call was to me. And even though he was notorious for not answering our calls and texts at times, when I couldn't reach him for two desperate hours, I KNEW he was gone. There was just an urgent sense that grew over that time as I called and searched for him. As I drove a frantic drive to the family lakehouse, I knew what I would find when I got there. As my children who refused to believe that anything could be wrong with their daddy encouraged me on the phone to just call the police and have them do a welfare check, I KNEW what I was going to find, and I didn't want anyone to find him but me.
Last night as I sat in the dark and talked with my son, he asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I told him all I wanted to do was to sit here in the house I love so much, and finish raising the six children that still live at home, and have my grandchildren over here all the time making lots of noise, and take care of my animals. He said, "You know what you just said, don't you mom? You just want to grow old."
And that's right. I just want to sit here and grow old. It's my right now. I want to reap what Bill Raley and I sowed in 41 years of marriage: the joys of my 12 children and my grandchildren. Over the years, many people discouraged me from having such a large family. But God says children are a blessing and a quiverful brings happiness, and I am here to testify today that nothing is more true than God's words on that subject. This past week my children have shined like lights in the universe, from the littlest ones drawing pictures and writing poems and stories about their daddy to the older ones taking charge of his business, his affairs in other ways, to directing me through what I need to do during a time when I could not think, to making phone calls and planning the service, putting together the slideshow, to giving beautiful tributes during the funeral, to sitting in the dark with me to just talk, to holding firmly to my hands as we did what had to be done and still need to do.
Oh, God, thank you for giving Bill and me the wisdom to listen to those scriptures and having all the children you would have us have, no matter how they came into our family.
Because right now, I really need them, and they are coming through like champions.