March 21, 2017, marked the 21st anniversary of when my brother met Jesus face to face. Terry had just completed work for the day, was visiting with men at the job site, and at 38 years of age died of a massive heart attack. He left behind his wife Eileen, daughter Stacy (15 years old), son Erich (13 years old), and family and friends who loved him dearly. The details of that day are embedded in all of our hearts and minds.
From the beginning, one of Dad’s desires for our family was that we would be close, and that was for more than just in age. Thankfully, that priority was accomplished. There were four daughters and one son in our family born in less than seven years. Terry was the fourth child and more than held his own with four sisters. He was even known to pass out Kleenex to all the girls before we watched “Little House on the Prairie.” As a child, as well as an adult, Terry brought much joy, laughter, and mischief into our family. You knew you would enjoy and treasure life whenever he was around. Terry wasn’t perfect by any means, but as he grew he embraced his relationship with Jesus. Before going to seminary, Larry was the Youth Minister at South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena for part of Terry’s and Micki’s, high school years. As an adult, Terry taught 7th grade boys in Sunday School and went to church youth camp as a sponsor. Since he had probably tried most of the tricks in the book, he was a great one to have to watch out for the kids. At his funeral, several people stated that either they or their child had become a follower of Jesus because of Terry’s influence during their 7th grade year. One of the most cherished memories our youngest sister, Micki, learned from Terry “was to let people know that they are special to me. Whenever I said something nice about someone, or told him what someone had done for me, he always asked me if I had let them know that I appreciated it, or just that they were special to me. When he died, I did not spend one minute wondering if he knew how special he was to me and that I loved him. He did know, because I told him on several occasions.” What a blessing to have the gift of no regrets.
Once the grandchildren came along, Terry was loved and adored by another generation. Whenever Terry was present, he had the kids’ attention from the moment he walked in the room. He took time to play with them, joke, and teach them things. Even after his own children were born, Terry had a way of including everyone when he was around.
Terry’s favorite number was 18, since he was born on October 18th. It’s one of those facts that we all know and remember about him. My senior year in college, Dad and Mom bought a car for us three older girls to have and share at Texas Tech. When Dad brought the car home, Terry gave me an envelope that I was instructed to pull over and open when the odometer hit 18. I opened the envelope just a few houses down on our street and found a $20 bill of his hard earned money that he had gifted to commemorate the occasion. I love that my first stem cell treatment was on October 18th, his birthday. Terry’s son recently married and chose a month with the 18th on the weekend, in memory of his dad, to have the wedding. Even with Mom’s memory waning, she still chooses cards with 18 on them when they play BINGO at her retirement home.
Weeks like this seem to magnify the gift we had in Terry. The memories have been extra sweet. Although Terry only had 38 years on this earth, he packed a lifetime into them. He taught his family the importance of loving each other, praying, having a relationship with Jesus, and other important lessons. It’s as if he had an urgency to teach and encourage them with what they needed to know about life. He would have continued to be so proud of Eileen, Stacy, and Erich. Terry taught and modeled and they took it to heart and put it into practice. Eileen continued to teach school and married a man who loves and provides for her and the kids. Stacy graduated college, married a fine man, has a precious daughter, and is a lab technician at a hospital. Erich served two tours of duty in the United States Marine Corps, graduated college, taught school, recently married a wonderful woman, and is attending law school. How grateful we continue to be for God’s gift of Terry and his family.
Some thoughts through these years:
* God’s love, faithfulness, presence, and provision continue to be enough.
* Investing in your family is worth it.
* Death may take a life, but the love and memories remain.
* Family and friends are treasured blessings, especially at times like these.
* Since our days are numbered, it’s important to express love and appreciation every chance you get.
* Celebrate, love, and cherish the ones you still have with you.
* I need to make sure I am living a life that makes a difference and is worthy of being missed and remembered.
* I want to be intentionally faithful to God’s purpose for my life.
* Because of my belief and trust in Jesus, I will be with Terry again one day.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
Psalm 133:1 (The Message)
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11