13 November, 2012

Farewell, My Friend

This past week a precious saint of God finished her race on this earth. Martha "Marty" Morrison was 91 years old. I had the privilege of being her pastor for the past 8 and a half years, but I've known Marty for more than 40 years.  When I was just a kid, Marty was a counselor at the Church of God youth camps that I attended. She was there every year. Not only did she serve as a counselor to a cabin of girls every year, Marty always led us on a 5 mile hike during that camp. That's where I got to know her. She was something else. All of the kids loved her. Over the last few years as her health declined, she slowed down quite a bit, but well into her 80's, she was still going out to the prison with a group every Sunday morning to have church with the inmates, before coming into our service. Every week she'd come in and give me a report about how the service had gone, and how many men had come to know Christ each week. Not too many folks I know who are still engaged in a ministry like that at 85 years old. If Marty would have been physically able, she'd have continued on even later. She also would go to the various nursing homes with a group of her friends to sing gospel music and encourage the patients. She did this into her mid 80's as well. She was a rare breed.

The night of Marty's death, I knew the end was near. The doctor had just told me 2 hours earlier that she probably had 5 to 10 days left in this life, but I knew death was coming much quicker. Three weeks before that, Marty had took my hand and warmly but firmly told me that she was ready to go home. I thought she meant back to her house at first, but she looked at me with those piercing eyes she had and said, "No... I'm ready to go home! I'm tired. I've lived a long time, but I'm done. I'm ready to see Jesus and be with my mom and dad." From that point on, her health declined rapidly. I believe she'd made up her mind that she was finished and pointed her face toward heaven. So, last Friday night, just a little after 6:00 PM, I stood by her bedside as she was struggling to breathe. I was not really even sure if she knew I was there at that point. I took her by the hand and I began to sing her favorite hymn to her:
Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away

As I sang the song, she turned her head toward me and grinned from ear to ear.
Suddenly, she just relaxed. Her breathing was no longer labored, and she was just at peace and calm. She closed her eyes and went to sleep.  I leaned over and whispered into her ear, that her fight was over, and I'd miss her, but we would meet again.
She never awakened.
About 15-20 minutes later she was pronounced dead.

My heart was broken, and I cried tears of sorrow, yet at the same time, I rejoiced and thanked God for allowing me to have been a part of this woman's life. 
I miss her. I was thinking today how much my life and pastoral duties have now changed. I usually spent a couple of hours a week with her in her home. In the winter I often spent more than that, as we'd sit and watch the snow and recall stories of youth camps and camp meetings of years gone by. I loved to sit and have her tell me stories about growing up here in Galesburg. She lived in the same house for 88 years and the stories she could tell about how the city had changed in that time. I'm so glad her suffering is over and that she is now in the presence of the Lord; but I'm sure going to miss her.

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