I wrote this and it was read by our pastor at Linda's service:
I used to joke that I felt sorry for any man who wasn’t married. Without a good woman to point out his faults, he might go through his whole life thinking that he’s OK. Whenever I was dumb enough to say this in front of her, Linda would give me that look and say, “You’re still learning, aren’t you?”
Over the past three days, I have literally made a shambles of the house searching for our wedding pictures. I was searching for one picture in particular, where the beautiful young bride is kissing the wedding band she is about to place on her groom’s finger. I wanted to find that picture because I felt it symbolized our life together, and I wanted to rekindle the memory of that Saturday in August 31 years ago. It is nowhere to be found. Ironically, of course, she would know exactly where it is.
It is the vision of that beautiful bride that I thought I wanted to carry in my mind over the next few days. Instead of finding the album, I felt led to I Peter 3:3-4 where he writes, “Let not yours be the merely external adorning the interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” As lovely as she was in that picture, her true beauty lay in her heart.
She truly lived the words of James 2:14-17. “What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save his soul? If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, and one of you says to him Goodbye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds, actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).
Linda loved life and all living creatures, with the notable exceptions of snakes, wasps, spiders and flies. Linda’s only respite from her heroic efforts to help care for my mother during the last two years of her life, was sitting on the patio and feeding the birds and squirrels. Her squirrels all had names such as Knothead, Scrappy, Ring-tail, and Little-bit. She was the only person I have ever known who would actually crack open walnuts and pecans for a squirrel. She would say, “Well, they’ve never seen one of those before. I’m just showing them what to do with it.” She confessed to embarrassing herself in front of the neighbors by running down the street screaming at a hawk trying to chase it away. She actually explained to the hawk, “I know you have to eat too, just not one of mine.”
The example of her compassion and love for others is probably best expressed by her care and concern for a homeless man named Daniel. She was working as the assistant to the senior pastor at First Baptist, when Daniel first appeared. It was in the dead of winter and he just asked if he could have a cup of hot coffee. Linda gave him the coffee and invited him to sit in the warmth of the church as he drank it. During that winter, Daniel’s coffee became a fixture of Linda’s day. One afternoon, he asked if there was “just a little something sweet” he could have. Without a second thought, Linda gave him the candy bar that someone had left in the office for one of the pastors. She later told me, “I’ll replace it, but you know they can buy their own candy.” One morning she appropriated a pair of my gloves and took them in for Daniel because his hands were purple from the cold the day before.
Even though it has been more than two years since she left her position at First Baptist, she has been asking the people who come through the line at our soup kitchen if they know a Daniel and whatever became of him. She said, “I’m just concerned about him. I’d like to know that he is OK.”
Over the last week of her life, one of her main focuses was trying to find a way to get food for the family of one of the men who came to the benevolence team for help. She wasn’t giving up until she could find a food pantry that would deliver to his house.
In I Peter he writes that a wife can influence her husband, “…so that, even if any do not obey the Word of God, they may be won over not by discussion, but by the godly lives of their wives.”
Linda would say that “God is infinite in wisdom, but a little short on instant explanations.” I know that God has a plan, and that this is part of that plan. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. And I wish it were not so. But it is.
I know that eventually, when some time has passed, I will find our wedding pictures. And I will still gaze in wonder at the beautiful young bride that God loaned me for too short a time. But it is Linda’s inner beauty fueled by love, compassion and earnest caring for all of God’s children that I will cling to the most.