Aloha Friday Message – September 01, 2006


This is a little different kind of Aloha Friday Card. I’m sending this today to commemorate my sister, Merilee. She died unexpectedly Monday evening. Indications were that some sort of embolus was the cause. The autopsy report has not been finalized yet. For those of you who had news of this earlier, this is a little bit of an update.

Merilee had one of those with an indefatigable faith. She COULD reach the end of her rope and let loose with some surprises, but I think that was more the result of growing up with five brothers. She could clean our clocks any time she wanted! Merilee was always generous with her time, talent, and treasure. She had a difficult life in many ways, and yet always relied on her faith to get beyond the troubles she faced. Today, Friday September 1, 2006, we are holding her funeral, and so I am on the mainland staying at our “Family Headquarters” in Aurora, Colorado. I am writing this in advance of that date so I cannot tell you any of the things I am experiencing today. Tune in next week for those details! 🙂

Lots of folks keep asking me, “Are you OK? That was your younger sister [my only sister sibling in fact]. I’m so sorry for your loss.” And you know, I really AM OK, and I understand appreciate the folks who say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I have a little different take on it, though. She’s not lost.

I still have a sister, and she’s still living — literally still alive. What else could “Eternal Life” mean? She’s alive. Still. Just relocated a bit sooner than me and a bit farther up. She will get to spend a few hundred days more (presumption on my part) with our Dad, and that is one mighty fine thing. So, you see, she’s OK and so am I. I’m at peace with this. I know it will be hard for the people who depended on her — her husband Yaroslav, our mother Zeta, her kids and grandkids. Some of them were overly dependent or perhaps even codependent. Others depended on her out of sheer love for being around her. She really knew how to get things moving and keep them moving. I cannot remember a day when I did not totally love her because she was so loving. I depended on that constancy of love from her, and she received the same from me. Big brother, little sister. We truly liked those roles.

Now she’s with our brother Jesus and will be hanging out with Him and with all the other people we know There. I’ve tried, but I cannot find any to make that a sad thing. So today we are rejoicing in that. I have no doubt some tears will be shed and some unanswerable questions will be repeated often. None of those can be even the minutest distraction from the irrevocable joy of knowing she’s just fine now, in fact better than she’s ever been.

Here’s what I said at her funeral:

From Merilee’s Funeral,

John 14: 1-3
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Brothers and Sisters in Christ —

God in his wisdom has created for each of us four distinct roles that serve as the basis for our relationship with him and with each other. The first is as a son or daughter. Merilee was an extraordinary daughter. Even her start in life was unique. She was born at home, and I had the privilege of being the first to announce her arrival when our dad dispatched me across the street to wake the neighbors and tell them to come to help because Mom was having a baby. As she grew older, she was a terrific daughter, the best daughter, the only daughter. She brought the usual mixture of pride and joy blended with momentary setbacks and sorrows as do we all. She was very close to our dad and took a major role in his care in his last few years. She has done the same for our mother, selflessly giving her time to help mom keep her independence. And now she’s rejoicing with Dad in Heaven; she’ll get to spend a little more time with him than the rest of us do, but she earned that privilege.

The second role God has prepared for most of us is the role of sister or brother. Merilee wan an exceptional sister, the best sister, the only sister. Some days she’d drive us boys crazy. It seemed she could get away with anything. But then that’s what comes from living with five brothers. And she could clean our clocks any time she got fed up with us. She also could comfort us and inspire us.

A third role is that of a spouse, a husband or wife. She was a wonderful wife and a great source of faith and courage in her home.

The fourth role is as a parent, a mother or father. Merilee also excelled in that role. She had a fierce love for her children, and doubtless they will remember her words, her example, and her love for the rest of their lives. This is another way by which she will always be present with us.

But there is another role, a voluntary role, through which she changed the world around her. That is the role of servant. Sometimes she was the Suffering Servant, like Jesus. Sometimes she was the Rejoicing Servant, like Jesus. Sometimes she was the Consoling Servant, like Jesus. But in all things, she approached her life as one dedicated to serving God by serving others. All of you are here today because she touched your lives deeply through her attitude of service. When you live the servant-life, this is one of the results: scores, even hundreds, of people whose lives are changed by your service. This is something she and I have in common, and we learned it from our parents. In fact, all of our siblings know and understand the importance of service, and we practice that in our homes, at our work, and in our faith. This servant attitude is what led her to one of the greatest joys in her life: Working with Mark in their ESL class. The impact of that relationship will last for years and years.

Merilee’s faith has always been so alive. Another servant role she took was that of a missionary. All of us know how her love for the Lord took her to Ukraine to share his gospel. And all of us know that through that endeavor she met Yaroslav. Their life together has been marked by tremendous spiritual accomplishments, more than their share of hardships, and remarkable victories over those hardships. My wife, Crucita, and I had the great joy of spending a week with them when they visited Kaua’i. It was a life-changing event for all of us. It also brought us even closer to Yaroslav, and that will only get better as time goes by. And so Merilee’s life goes on in us and around us.

This is how we know that Merilee has a new place to live. My sister is alive. She simply relocated. We all say, “She’s in a better place,” and that’s true. In some ways, though she is more accessible and more alive than she has ever been. She got an E Ticket and took that journey sooner than any of us expected. But the “E” in this case stands for Eternity. I’ve got an E Ticket, too, and so do all of you. This E Ticket has no expiration date, but I do. And, like Merilee, when it comes time to turn in my ticket, I’m not waiting around for anyone!

===== ===== ===== ===== Additional remarks that could not be fit into the time allotted:

There is another aspect of Merilee’s life that should not be overlooked. Not only was she a servant and a missionary but also she was a champion for equity among all persons whether within her family, within her church, within her nation, or within the world. She rarely backed down when faced with opposition over what she believed whether it was about the Gospel or about her role as caregiver. I know that sometimes she felt discouraged when friends or family would not or could not understand why she did what she did. We talked about this Bible passage from Ephesians 4: 30-32.

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In addition to her roles as daughter, sister, wife, mother, and servant she also took the role of Champion quite seriously, and she championed Peace. May she now rest in Peace. We have asked among ourselves, “Why did God take her so soon?” Merilee always had the E Ticket and when she got a chance to use it, she offered it up immediately.She left because she had completed what the LORD had sent her here to do. We might not be able to make sense of it — yet — but I am certain that one result of her sudden departure will be the awareness that we must not “grieve the Holy Spirit” with our divisiveness — family, church, nation, and world — so that “that perfect Peace which surpasses all understanding” will be ours. Like Merilee I pray that we will learn the difference between holding our peace and being held in Peace.

And now may the God of All Mercies be with you, both now and forever, in all that you think, do, or say.

So Happy Aloha Friday, thank you for your empathy and your sympathy, and please rejoice with us as we give her a little send off.

Always and All Ways Yours in Him,


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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