Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watchbands, Worries, and Worship at the Throne

In my purse I am still carrying around a watch band that my dad gave me a few months ago, before he became too ill to do such things,  to give to Bill.  It was made out of leather, and Dad always hated leather bands.  He was a thick, meaty Sicilian who preferred the stretch metal link bands, so the practical thing to do was to pass it on. 

It has been three weeks now since Dad went home to be with the Lord, and I don't really want to put it away, because it reminds me that Dad was "just here."  Just here meant a few days ago for a while, now it means a few weeks ago, and later it will mean something else.  The impression that I get when I go home to Mom and Dad's house is so strong it is painful.  His shoes are still at the door.  The winter coat that I carried home from hospice without him in it--I hung it in the closet as though he would need it in just a few days.

Now all this sounds very sad, and I hope I haven't lost you yet.  Because there is another side of this coin!  I also find myself thinking about all the things he was concerned about in the last months.  The mortgage?  Still an issue, but he probably forgot about it by now, as he is worshipping the Lord!  My son Will, who reminded Dad so much of himself that he was always giving me advice about how to handle him?  In the Lord's hands, just like before.  Leaky kitchen sink?  We are all here left to deal with it, but he has long forgotten it.  I could go on--so many projects he had set aside, plans to fix the house, the garage to clean.  None of it matters at all now.

Jesus told us not to worry about anything--and especially not to worry about anything that is not today.  Don't have a lot of money or a fancy position?  The Word says that a man's life does not consist in what he has and does.  The project in the garage?  You will get to it.  Or you won't. ( Either way, you win!)

I am not suggesting that we stop doing purposeful things in life, but I AM  thinking that we all need to stop worrying about them.  I think of all the ridiculous worries that flow through my head in the course of the day, and the countless little misunderstandings or imperfect exchanges I have with people that rob me of peace, when there is very little really that we must concern ourselves with.

Think about heaven and what goes on there.  After all, that is what all of us who believe in Jesus and call on His name are longing for.  I think from Dad's perspective right now, he sees how important relationships with the primary people in his life mattered.  I think he probably wishes he and Mom had snuggled more and struggled less (even though they clearly loved one another!).  I think now that he sees the Lord in all His glory, he can understand why he should let God be in control of his grandchildrens' destinies.  The garage has gloriously disappeared from his remembrance-- (even though it is very real to my Mom, my sisters, and myself still!).  All these things are in the Lord's capable hands, and we can add NOTHING--not even a minute to our own lives--by worrying about it. (Jesus said that!)

I am keeping the leather band in my purse a little while longer.  I am not in a hurry to ditch it, and I REALLY don't want to be the one to take Dad's coat out of the hall closet.  But I am not sad for him.  I do wish I hadn't held on to irritations between us.  I wish I had been more unabashed with my affection for him, as his hugs and sweet touches on the cheek (always given so freely) are now gone from me for the rest of my journey here.  I want to trust God more with my life, and I want to enact a One Day At a Time policy on concerns.  One day will be my last day.  The gas bill won't get paid that month.  My closet probably won't be orderly, if my pattern so far is any indication.  And the Lord will still be on the throne... and I will get to see Him face to face.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In memory of Sam Bellitto

Sam & Ginny with Hannah and Abi. This was taken shortly after we returned to the States.
This from Bill:

Today’s update begins with a prayer request for our family. Lena’s father, Sam Bellitto, passed away last Sunday, February 27. He was 74 years old. The showing and funeral were March 2 & 3 in Cleveland. Sam valiantly battled lung cancer for two years. They discovered the cancer and began chemo therapy while we were serving our first term in Peru. When we came home for itineration last July, Sam was doing extremely well. It was great to see him working on the house and yard, just like old times. 

Sam and I were very close. He was a friend who was easy to be close to. In a family otherwise dominated by women, we had to band together to do macho stuff. Sam was there for me when I wanted to watch an action-adventure movie instead of a romantic comedy; or, when there was a very urgent need to spend two hours wondering through a hardware store. If, on the way to the hardware store we happened to spot a garage sale with used tools—that was like winning bonus points.

Sam was a devout Catholic with an obvious love for the Lord. He served his local church community St. Barnabas for over 40 years. He taught CCD classes, helped on retreats (renewals) and served communion. One of the ways he served, even after he was diagnosed with cancer, was in taking communion to the local nursing home. He was a natural for that ministry because of his love for the Lord and his gift of gab. He had a way of making one feel appreciated. As his son-in-law, that meant grabbing my head and kissing me, mafia style, and patting my cheeks (again, like an old Italian) with his huge hands.

Once, Willy said, “Men don’t kiss men.”

Colton and I responded, “Except for Grandpa Sam!”

Willy said, “That’s different.”

I said, “Your right, Willy. That’s because Grandpa Sam kisses like an old Italian.”

My favorite memory of Sam involves our call to be missionaries in Peru. As a grandfather he was not pleased with our call, but as a Christian he was very supportive. Lena and I told him and Ginny about our call as missionaries before we told my parents. I delayed telling my parents because I feared my mother’s reaction. I often share that the call to be a missionary has very little to do with the difficulties of eating difficult foods (like bugs, which is what most people fear) and much more to do with leaving family and friends. Many times, those who stay behind pay just as heavy a price as those who are called to go. As such, I was not eager to tell my parents about our call. It eventually became critical and I feared that someone else would ask them about it, so I had to muster my courage and tell them. Coincidentally, in human terms, Sam and Ginny were visiting us at that time. I say “in human terms” because I don’t think it was a coincidence from God’s perspective. My mom bought a recliner at a local furniture store and asked me to pick it up in my van. Sam offered to go along. I said something like, “You’re going to want to reconsider that offer, Sam. I’m going to tell my parents about Peru and it’s not going to be pretty.”

He looked into my eyes and said, “That’s OK, I'll go with you.” He said it in a tone of voice that communicated that he understood what I was facing.

I said, “I should do this alone.”

He responded, “No. I’ll go with you.”

That was a tense ride, filled with all the great feelings of driving to the dentist’s office for a root canal.
When I got there, my brother-in-law, Tim, showed up at the same time. That was another “coincidence.”
I told Tim, “You might want to turn around. I’m going to tell mom and dad about Peru.”

Tim said, “That’s alright. I’ll go with you.”

So, the three of us carried in the chair. For my part, the chair was light in comparison to the weight of breaking my parent’s hearts by saying I’m about to take your grand-kids to a country you’ve hardly even heard of.

I told my parents, with Sam and Tim standing behind me. They were, of course, flabbergasted. My mother looked at Sam and said, “What do you think of this?”

Sam’s voice never took on more sincerity than in that moment. He looked down at the carpet and said, “We’re upset by it. We don’t like it. We’re worried about their safety and especially about missing the grandkids.” The he looked up at my parents and said, “But if God has called them. I’m not going to stand in His way.”

Sam spoke the very words that were on my heart, too. But he spoke them as one who was going through the same sacrifice that my parents were also being forced to make. His presence defused an extremely tense moment. I will never forget it. And I will never forget how God supplied my need through Sam. He was a faithful husband to Ginny; a faithful son to Lena’s grandparents, a loving father to Marie, Lena and Gina; a wonderful and affectionate grandfather to my children and a great friend and father-in-law to me.

When I think of him entering heaven, I like to think of him looking like he did when he was a young man, like his days in the Army, with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder. He’s walking up a small hill to the pearly gates. Standing under the arch of those gates is Jesus, dressed in white. He grabs Sam’s head and kisses him on both cheeks, like an old Italian. Then He pats him on his face and says, “Welcome home, Sam.”