Monday, August 27, 2007

Farewell, Friend

“Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep in death, that you may not grieve for them, as the rest do who have no hope beyond the grave. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep in death.”

~ I Thessalonians 4:13,14 (Amp)

I was saddened to receive word that my dear, sweet friend, Rebecca Miller had passed away on Friday, August 17th.

The last time I visited with Rebecca was on June 7, 2007. I remember the date because it was our granddaughter Katelyn’s first birthday. Keen and I stayed at the Cottage House to celebrate our anniversary before driving to Wichita for the party. I’m so thankful that I stopped by to see Rebecca before we left town.

Rebecca was her usual cheerful, positive self – ever an inspiration. I told her she was very special, and without hesitation she returned the compliment. I noticed the unique and beautiful quilt on her bed and asked if I could take a picture of it. I believe she said a good friend made it for her years ago. I commented on the fact that she didn’t have any pillows on her bed. Rebecca replied that she didn’t sleep with a pillow. Gesturing to my flat chest, I told her that ever since my mastectomy, I can also sleep on my stomach without a pillow. Rebecca immediately answered, “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that your body is free from active cancer!” Once again, my friend reminded me what was really important in life. Rebecca had a way of doing that.

Rebecca's quilt

I will miss my special friend. And yet, I know that she is in a better place, and that God’s heavenly band of angels has one more violin player. I also have the assurance that I will see Rebecca again one day, and she will walk tall and will greet me with a plate of fresh baked cookies. In the meantime, I will focus on the blessing of meeting Rebecca, and thank God for the gift of knowing her. I’m fairly certain that’s the way Rebecca would have wanted it.

And so, in honor of Rebecca’s life and unforgettable, generous spirit, I would like to share the column I wrote for her shortly after our first meeting in June, 2004.

Picture of Contentment

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

~ I Timothy 6:6-8 (NKJV)

A few weeks ago I received the nicest letter from a woman by the name of Rebecca Miller of Council Grove. (Rebecca writes the Wilsey news for the Council Grove newspaper.) She wanted to let me know that she had been getting acquainted with me by reading my column in The Prairie Post. “It’s my opinion that you are a talented writer, and I enjoy reading what you write. Keep on writing.”

Her letter was a great source of encouragement to me, but nothing could compare with the joy of meeting Rebecca and visiting with her face to face. Coincidentally, she lives right across the street from The Cottage House where Keen and I went to celebrate our 26th anniversary. Although I only spent an hour with Rebecca, she made such a strong impression on me.

Rebecca Miller was born on November 23, 1919, at her grandparents’ home southwest of White City, Kansas. She spent the first 50 years of her life on farms around Wilsey, raising cattle, hogs and chickens and tending her garden. The next 30 years she lived in the town of Wilsey. After her house burned down several years ago, Rebecca moved to an apartment in Council Grove. She never complained about the fire. Instead, she chose to maintain a positive outlook. “Maybe it turned out for the best for me to move into Council Grove,” she stated. Rebecca loves her apartment and all her neighbors. “Nobody goes by Mr. or Mrs. here – we all just go by our first names.” I’m sure her neighbors love her, too. She’s known as “The Cookie Lady” because of the cookies and treats she bakes for the other residents and mail carriers. She gave me some of her delicious applesauce cookies when I visited.

In the short time I spent with Rebecca, I learned that she has some very strong opinions. She never married (“I don’t feel sorry for myself one little bit”), and she stated very plainly that she doesn’t want to be called a spinster. “You can call me an old maid, but don’t call me a spinster!” she explained. I told her that I wouldn’t think of calling her either one! Rebecca also dislikes the title “Ms.” She prefers to be addressed by her first name or by Miss Miller. “When I get free address labels that say Ms. Rebecca Miller, I just use my other ones. I have plenty of labels; I don’t need to use them.”

Rebecca has an ailment which prevents her from standing upright. She called it the “Harmon stoop” since several members of her family were inflicted with it, too. But she doesn’t let it bother her or hold her back. Instead, she talks about how grateful she is that she doesn’t suffer from arthritis and how blessed she is to have perfect eyesight, without the need for glasses. With Rebecca, the glass is always half full.

Rebecca proudly told me all about her sister, Jane Dixon, who also lives in Council Grove and is 17 years her junior. “She’s so good to me,” she said. “She takes me to the grocery store and I just hand her my list. She’s much taller than I ever was so she can reach the items on the shelf. Then she carries them to my apartment for me. All I do is push the cart and write the check.”

When Rebecca was in high school, she wanted to learn how to play the violin in the worst way. But times were tough and her family couldn’t afford to pay $12.50 for a violin. Then one day she overheard a boy at school talking about how he sold his violin to another girl, but she had never paid him. Rebecca asked the boy how much he was selling it for and he told her $5.00. Somehow her family managed to scrape together enough money to buy the violin. “The music teacher wasn’t very happy with me for buying the violin away from the other girl, because she had more musical talent than I did,” Rebecca said. “But she bought another violin later, so everything worked out fine.”

Rebecca remarked that God didn’t give her the talent to sing or play music by ear, but thankfully He gave her the talent to read music and play the violin. “The talents I don’t have make me more under- standing of others who can’t do certain things, and the talents I do have make me grateful for the gifts God did give me.”

When I asked Rebecca if she would play a tune for me, she agreed and proceeded to play a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. She enjoys playing for her church in Wilsey where she taught Sunday school for many years. I was very surprised to learn that Rebecca is still using the same violin her parents bought for her so many years ago. Now that’s a picture of contentment!

Someone once said that joy, like sorrow, is infectious. Spending an hour with Rebecca Miller would brighten anyone’s day.

May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

~ An Irish friendship wish

God’s blessings to you, my friend ~


Rebecca Miller, June 7, 2007