Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
Cleaning up messes
Every day this week, I have gotten up thinking about Jackie, so I will continue with some thoughts about her.
When Tommy asked for memories, one immediately came to mind. We worked with senior high kids at camp, and it seemed like the kitchen never fixed enough food for them. One day Jackie and I went to the cooks and said, "could you fix more gravy? We aren't going to have enough." So they did, only they took their own sweet time. By the time the gravy arrived, the kids were finished eating and most had left. At that time we were eating outside in the tabernacle, and not in the dining hall. We did that a lot. It was extra trouble but we liked it better outside.
I looked at Jackie and said, "what are we going to do? We can't send this gravy back inside or they won't fix anything tomorrow!" Finally we decided to get one of those huge plastic mayonnaise jars that industrial kitchens always have, and pour the gravy in it and take it to our room. Don't ask me what we planned to do with it after that!
When we got back to the dorm, we were standing in the hall talking and I was holding the mayonnaise jar. All of a sudden it slipped out of my hands and hit the floor. I was covered with gravy from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head! All I did was stand there yelling! After Jackie quit laughing so hard she was crying, she went to her room and got towels and cleaned me up, laughing hysterically the whole time.
This story describes Jackie completely. She cleaned up messes. That's what she did. She was always cleaning up other people's messes. Who is going to do it now?
The days after
It is hard to think about too much since my friend Jackie died. I keep going back in my mind to all the years we had together and all the things we did. Tommy was asking us for memories of her this morning because he is preaching her funeral. They came tumbling out! What a legacy! We used to joke with Bob and Jackie about our funerals. Bob said he was going to have everyone hold hands around Tommy's casket and sing Kumbaya. We always thought there should be a little FUN in FUNeral. So, true to our convictions, Jackie has requested that John boy play the Charlie Brown theme song...she called it the Snoopy song....as they wheel her casket out. She wants to go out on a joyful note! What a testimony! I will miss you my dear dear friend.
That beautiful shore
Jackie is with the Lord now. She has blessed so many lives.
A light that never goes out
After one of our infamous mud fights at camp! We ended with shaving cream before hitting the creek!
One of my best friends just turned 80 during December. She is 9 months older than I. I have known her most of my life.
Think mud fights, and staying up until 3 just to get ready for the next day, and silencing giggling girls after 3 so we could maybe get up the next morning. Think trips to the hospital every day for a week (we had quite dangerous activities!) Think meeting from January until July planning activities, and loading stuff to use in those activities into a borrowed school bus. (And yes, we filled the bus.) The bus held only a part of the "stuff". Everyone on the staff loaded their vehicles.
Think laughter, tears, hikes, hugs....oh my goodness. Have I only written a short paragraph? I could go on and on about the days my friend Jackie and her husband Bob, and their boys, plus Tommy and me and our boys, spent doing church camp together in Unicoi, Tennessee. For 35 years we spent a week every summer in July, at senior high camp. I have never seen a week of camp like ours. During those years, Jackie, Bob, Tommy and I became so close that we usually knew what each other thought before we even talked. A friendship like that is rare. I don't take it lightly.
Today, my friend Jackie is lying in bed, in her home, perhaps breathing her last breath. I don't have one single worry about where Jackie is going, but I am sad for those of us left behind. I know that as long as Jesus and His people are in the world that light won't go out. But, it will be a little dimmer with Jackie gone.
From left to right, Pat, Tommy, Bob, Jackie (getting an award for doing camp for 35 years!)
We got home last night, and Jason and Gillian came by for a little while. Jason told us he smelled gas really strongly outside when he came in. It was coming from our heat/air unit. We immediately called KUB and believe it or not they immediately came out! They told us not to smoke or use our cell phones until after they got here. (It was hard to refrain, but we managed.) They said it was only exhaust and was nothing to worry about, but the unit should be serviced for cleaner exhaust and better performance.
While we were waiting for them to come, Jason told about a house he had considered renting one time and didn't. Not long after he looked at it there was gas leak and the house burned to the ground. As we sat there talking I thought to myself, this could be it. We could be sitting here talking and all of a sudden be in the presence of the Lord. He really knew what He was talking about when He said in the Bible not to worry about tomorrow because all we have is today. Actually all we have is this moment and it is fleeting.
This isn't meant to be doom and gloom. Just an encouragement to live as if this moment were your last. Now go outside and sniff around your heat and air unit, if it is gas!
Letting things go
Yesterday I spent almost all day cleaning at our trailer in Elizabethton. We are going to get rid of it as soon as we can, so I have been lax about cleaning it. It is 36 years old, so it's time for it to go! I gave it a thorough cleaning starting with the back bathroom and moving through to the front of the trailer. As I cleaned I remembered so many things that happened here when the boys were growing up.
If you have ever been inside a trailer, you know that one bedroom is a bit larger than the other two (if it is a 3 bedroom home.) Even at that, though, the large bedroom is tiny compared to bedrooms in regular homes. When we moved in, Tommy and I slept in that bedroom, John boy slept in the tiny one...about the size of a closet, and Jason slept in the front bedroom. When John boy went to college at ETSU he took drum lessons, so we moved him into the "large" bedroom so he could set up his drums and we took the tiny one.
When John boy left and went to UT Jason wanted to sleep in the large bedroom, so we moved into Jason's room and gave the large one to him. We have slept in every bedroom in the trailer.
When we first moved in I did not like that our bedroom was on one end of the trailer and the boy's bedrooms were on the other. (A full 70 feet!) I had never slept that far away from them. Tommy came in the first night to go to bed and I was lying in bed reading, and crying. He knew exactly why. He told me to get out of bed and he took the mattress off the bed, drug it into the living room and laid it on the floor. We climbed in giggling all the time! After about a week, I was able to sleep away from the boys.
I guess the Lord was preparing me to let them go. It's funny how something like where you sleep in your home can be a life lesson. Even if everyone has to sleep in the same room, it is teaching you a lesson. I am thankful for the years we had here in the trailer and for all the lessons I learned while living here. (Look closely among the trees and you will see our little green trailer.)
Tommy talks a lot about our "tribe". That is, people you consider close to you. People who might not be blood relatives but who are just as close. These are people you know always have your back. People you can call on day or night. People who love you even when you are not very lovable. We have a tribe. Some are pictured here, some are not. Even if you are not, you know who you are. I hope that all of you reading this have a tribe. If you don't, you are welcome to join ours!
Do you want to be made well?
A couple of years ago, one of the girls I worked with out on the street, was going to have twins. I knew that if she went to the hospital in Knoxville, that they would take the babies as soon as they were born because she used drugs. She came to me wanting help, so I went to work.
I found 7 places who would take her, but I ended up settling on a place in Chattanooga. For several weeks I was in touch with a girl there who assured me that they would take my friend. I looked the place up on line and it looked beautiful! The girl also told me that my friend could have her babies and keep them. They would also find work for her and keep the babies in day care for quite a long period of time, until they felt that my friend, (I will call her Emily) was ready to leave.
I went to find Emily who was either living on the street or staying with someone who lived in a run down apartment. I told her what I had found for her and she was so grateful and so excited. All I had to do was complete the paper work. The girl at the rehab place was faxing me the forms that day, so I set a time and place to meet Emily the next day. She assured me she would be there. I also told her to be ready to leave for Chattanooga because I was going to take her as soon as we got the papers signed.
The papers came through, so the next day I went to find Emily. I had been very specific about where I would meet her...the run down apartment. She wasn't there. No one knew where she was. I drove around for almost an hour looking at all the places out on the street where I thought she would be. Nothing.
So, I came home. The word out on the street was, that the babies were born a couple of weeks later. The state took them. Someone else is taking care of her babies now and the last I heard, Emily had taken up with another man and moved. The ironic thing is that I heard she moved to Chattanooga!
There is a passage in the Bible where Jesus comes up to a man who has been lame for 38 years. The first thing he asks the man is "do you want to be made well?" (John 5)
I think about that phrase a lot. Do you want to be made well? I ask myself that a lot....do I want to be made well? I don't think Emily did.
One last word
Tommy has had a cough for several days now. He is finally going to see the Dr. today, but then he leaves tomorrow to go preach in North Carolina. I asked him if he thought he should cancel the meeting and he said no. I am convinced that if he were in the pulpit preaching and felt as if he was getting ready to die, he would say "just let me say one last word to these people Lord, before you take me."
I was thinking about that this morning and wrote my friend Greg down in Atlanta, those very words. (By the Way, he also inspired my blog about the fireplace...he asked me if he did, since he is always talking about sitting in front of it!)
After I wrote him about Tommy I started thinking. If I knew I only had a few minutes to live, what would be the last words I said to people around me. Something to think about today.
February is right around the corner! Hard to believe. Seems like I say every month, "where has the month gone." Now I am saying it about January! John boy asked me for a story about February, and this is what I told him.
When I was a little girl and living on Bernhurst Dr. in Fountain City, there was a knock on the door on Valentines Day. I went to the door and a boy down the street was standing there with a heart shaped box of chocolates! I was so excited. I had never gotten one of those before!
After thanking him profusely, I brought it inside and opened it, ready to dig in!. When I started to reach in, I realized that all of the good pieces were gone. I don't know if it is still that way, but back then there were what we called good pieces and bad pieces. Tommy's grandmother, Nanny, used to pinch each one to see which was good and which was bad. Of course to her, none of them were bad. She just didn't want anyone else eating any!
In the month coming up, I hope you all get a heart shaped box of chocolates. And I hope that all of them are in there. And I especially hope that none of them have been pinched!