Monday, February 21, 2011

Barbara

Almost thirty years ago, my parents moved our (then) family of four to Oak Ridge, a little suburb just north of Houston. The doors on the moving van had barely shut when we set out on the hunt for a new church home. We found that home at Oak Ridge Baptist Church--back then, it was known as "that big white church by the freeway." We hadn't been there very long when our family first got to know, and then to love, the Wolfe family.

Joe and Barbara and their sons Jody and Jamie were a typical American family in a lot of ways. Joe was a CPA who looked for any excuse to go fishing, Barbara taught school and took care of her family. They were atypical in a few ways, too. Joe suffered from polio as a child, and the effects of that followed him into adulthood, making it more and more difficult to walk. Jamie had muscular dystrophy. As the years went by, the muscles in his body atrophied until finally he was wheelchair-bound.

You might think that life dealt this precious family a particularly unfair hand. Not one of them would have agreed with you. The love they had for each other and for God was unwavering. They approached life with enthusiasm and lots of laughter. Their faith got them through the darker days, and they made sure that God got full credit and glory in all things, good or bad. I watched them carefully through the years, especially Barbara. I couldn't have known then that I, too, would be the only girl in a house full of boys. She poured everything she had into her family and her church. I know she worked harder than I can even imagine, but no one that I know ever once heard her complain.

I grew up and moved away from my family and my church. My parents moved to the other side of Houston just a few months later. It's hard to keep in touch with people you don't see often, but we loved those Christmas letters Barb and Joe sent out! They were just as funny as being with them in person. I finished school, got married, and Hubby and I started our life together. As a young wife, Barb often came to mind as a role model for the kind of wife I wanted to be for my husband. The thought of her always made me smile.

Then tragedy struck for our friend. In just a few years' time, Barbara lost her husband and both of her sons. Three lives...three loves...three funerals. Then, the unthinkable. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and later, ovarian cancer. Cancer seemed to those of us on the outside to be the greatest injustice, just adding insult to injury for someone who deserved it the least.

Barb fought hard. She endured multiple chemotherapy protocols. She lost her hair, grew it back, and lost it again. She continued to teach a women's Sunday School class. She continued to encourage and uplift other people, even though her suffering must have been great. I know she did, because one of those people was me.

Barbara's last scan showed tumors growing all over her body. She moved in with her parents, and was placed under hospice care within weeks. On Valentine's Day, God showed mercy and called her home. I wish I could have caught just a glimpse of her three able-bodied boys running to meet her! What a perfect day for a perfect homecoming!

The last time I saw Barbara was at my brother's wedding in September. She sat in an aisle seat during the ceremony, and several of their wedding pictures have her in the background, smiling like witnessing Phil and Chelsea's love and vows was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She gave me a big hug that day and reminded me to keep on fighting the good fight. She told me that even cancer was no match for the power that I have through Christ. Cancer took Barb's earthly life, but whatever she is experiencing now is nothing to be mourned. Indeed, He has turned her mourning into dancing!

The summer that I was about the same age that my Goliath is now, Barbara was my VBS teacher. During that week of VBS, she challenged us to memorize Psalm 100. I met that challenge, and all these years later, that Scripture passage is still hidden deep in my heart.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who has made us, and we are his.
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

That, my friends, is quite a legacy. To be not just a teacher, but a doer of the Word...to make lifelong impacts on people...to believe He is good even when it doesn't seem like it, and to proclaim His faithfulness to anyone who will listen...that is who Barbara was. And it's who I long to be.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

Allyson, Phil, and Barbara--August 2010

4 comments:

Kim C said...

She was a special lady. They were our adopted Houston family that we loved & learned so much from. Thank you for your sweet words of remembrance. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have camped out in the back yard. I about fell out of my chair the first time I heard her say a mild four letter word. She also introduced me to the concept that southern gals don't sweat, we just glisten. I was honored to be her local "in case of emergency" contact.

Liz said...

What a beautiful tribute to a special lady!

bhayes11 said...

So beautiful & I'm with you - I would love to be just like her.

wilsonfamily said...

Thank you for sharing this, Allyson. What a beautiful testiment to one's faith!