Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our Home

January 21, 2009

This part of our journey for our family the last two and one half years has been unlike anything that I could have ever anticipated. I feel like this part of our journey ended with my children moving to Edmond to join me and Saundra and her children in our new home. The addition that we had built onto Saundra’s home was completed and approved to be occupied by the city of Edmond on January 16.

I still lay awake at night at times and ask the question, “Has this really happened?”

It happens to lots of people. My children were very blessed to be in the same family, in the same church, in the same home, and in the same school for so many years. All around us people were going thru changes like the ones we have recently experienced. We never thought it would happen to us. That is not being naïve. If you sat around anticipating what we have been thru, it would not be healthy.

As usual, as I look back, I can see how God has been faithful. He gave Debbie a better home and relieved her of her suffering. He gave us hope for a future in this life when we were hopeless. He gave us an amazing capacity to adapt and adjust to new circumstances and new people. He restored our smiles and our laughter. He restored our ability to dream. He has given us new vision for our lives.

Soon our house at 6301 S.W. 123rd will be empty. We leave behind the Wells Family House with mixed feelings. We love where we are going. We hate what we are leaving. Jeremiah, Mercy, and William were born after we moved there. Grace was just a few months old when we moved there in 1989. It is where most of my children learned how to ride a bike, shoot a basketball, and catch a football. We celebrated so many holidays there and hosted so many people. We had so much fun. We laughed together and we suffered together in that home. It is where Debbie’s mother took her final breath. It is where Debbie left us to go be with the Lord. Debbie often would say to me as we were driving up in the drive way, “I love our home.” We all feel the same way.

I never felt this way about a house before. I moved many times when I was growing up and I never felt the way I feel about this house. It is not just a house. It was our home.

What makes a house a home? A home is a place where you feel loved when you drive in the drive way and walk in the front door. It is a place where you know that even when you have only been gone a short time, you have been missed. It is a place where you see and spend time with the people you love most. It is a place where you know that you will be loved even when you have failed. It is a place that you can retreat from the world and find peace. It is the place that you want to return to no matter where you live or how long you have been gone.

It is for this reason that I can safely predict that in the years ahead my children will all make there way back to 6301 S.W. 123rd. They will pull up in front of the house and comment on what things have changed and what things have stayed the same. They will picture in their mind good times from the past. But most of all they will remember that that this was the place that they called home.

I hope that you have such a place to call home. If you don’t, I am sorry that you have not had this experience because of certain conditions in your family. You could feel cheated. I would encourage you not to feel that way. I assure you that if you are in Christ, whatever you have missed in this life will be much better in the next.

Heaven is the perfect home. Everything that we experienced at 6301 S.W. 123rd will be magnified. The best part about it is that we will never have to leave. We will never have to know again the pain of separation. Our permanent home will be so much better than what we have known.

It is O.K. to look back. We all do it. When we do we can smile and shed a tear all at the same time.

But to move forward, you have to look forward and believe the promises of God. Our heavenly home is such a great promise. Until that day!

Jerry Wells

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 12, 2008-Our Thirty-First Wedding Anniversary

August 12, 2008-The Thirty-First anniversary of our wedding

My Dearest Debbie:

I was told that to recover from the loss of someone you love you must say one thousand good byes.

I started the process of saying good bye before you ever left us. I met with out children about two weeks before you left us and encouraged each one of them to personally tell you four things.

"Tell your Mom that you love her. Tell your Mom why you love her. Tell your Mom anything you regret and ask her to forgive you. Tell your Mom good bye, for now. Tell her that you know you will see her again, even if she has to leave us now."

I knew that saying good bye would be the hardest thing for them to say. It really has not gotten any easier up to this point in my journey.

As far as I know, each one our children had a last private conversation with you in our bed room. You greeted them with your ever so, “You’re the most important person in the world look.” They shared their heart. You hung on every word like you were listening to the most important message you had ever heard. You thanked them like they had just given you the most valuable gift you had ever received. You shared your hope and dreams for them. You told them how proud you were of them. You hugged them and told them you loved them.

No, I was not there and I have not discussed the details with all the children. But I just know you, better than anyone who ever knew you.

Today would have been our 31 wedding anniversary. I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were so young. You were so beautiful. I knew I was receiving a great gift from God. But I really had no idea how blessed I would be. Your love for me was beyond measure. I did not know that it was possible be so loved by another. For this reason, our relationship became my greatest passion other than my relationship with Jesus. I woke up each morning looking forward to what the day would bring with you at my side.

Thank you for loving me beyond measure. Thank you for being my most loyal friend. Thank you for always believing in me even after I hurt you or disappointed you. Thank you for giving me children and believing in my children. Their most difficult times are when they are facing giants. They miss hearing you say how proud you are to be their Mom. They miss hearing you say that you know they will do great. They miss hearing you say that they did great even when they know it was not their best performance. You are such a great Mom. You were such a great wife to me. Happy Anniversary!

That is one of the strange things about heaven. You will always be their Mom. But you will not always be my wife. We fulfilled our vows to one another the moment you left. Our marriage ended but your life as the children’s Mom will never end. You will never be replaced. I believe they will call you Mom on the new earth with its new heaven.

It was very difficult for me to accept at first that I would not always call you my wife. I could not comprehend that we would not have the same relationship in heaven. I searched the scriptures on many occasions to see if there was any loop hole. I could not find one. On August 12, 1977, we both said till death separates us. On May 3, 2007, our marriage ended and I had to say good bye to it.

Saying good bye to our marriage was and is such a painful struggle. I remember the day I took off my wedding ring. It was about five months after you left us. I was painting something at our home. I had taken my ring off to paint and had laid it on my dresser. After I finished, I went to the dresser to put my ring back on. I picked it up, looked at it, and knew it was time. I shed many tears as I put it in the drawer with some of my other personal items. It was one of those one thousand painful good byes.

I am amazed that the impression made by my wedding ring on my finger can still be seen nearly a year later. It has faded. The impression that you made on my heart will never fade. I will love you forever.

On this the anniversary of our wedding, I want you to know there is a new impression being formed on my heart. I often wonder if you know such things as they are happening on earth.

For the first eight and one half months after you went to heaven, I didn’t think it would be possible for me to have the kind of love we shared with someone else. During one of my most desperate times before you left, you had said to me with an amazing tone of understanding, “you will remarry.”

This new impression on my heart was made suddenly. It was so unexpected. It was confusing, at first. I felt disloyal to you and to my children.

But as I got to know Saundra Cobbs, it became so apparent to me that God was leading us together.

I was acquainted with Saundra’s husband John. John passed away suddenly on January 25, 2007. I attended John’s funeral on January 31. The funeral was on the day that you completed your sixth and last scheduled treatment. I got you settled that morning at OU Presbyterian Hospital and left for the funeral in Edmond. You assured me you would be fine. You were so looking forward to finishing this marathon.

It was very cold and it snowed that day. I sat in the very top of the auditorium at First Baptist Edmond. It looked as though there were several thousand people in attendance. Many of my friends from my graduating class high school were there because John Cobbs attended Del City High School.

I was greatly moved and challenged by the message of John’s life. He was a Pastor himself. He served in several churches and when he left his family, he was the associate Pastor at First Baptist Edmond. He was a wonderful man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, and Pastor. He touched so many lives. He was quite the evangelist, like you. I did not speak to the family that day. I left quickly to get back to you.

Then you left us on May 3. Eight months later, our dear friend Kathy Law told me that John’s wife Saundra was really suffering. I thought I could help because I could identify with her pain. I thought she might want to talk with someone who understood her loss. I thought I could use a new friend.

I called her. That first phone call led to our first meeting. We met at Charleston’s in Edmond. At that meeting, we told our stories of our love and our loss. We both shed many tears.

I did not fall in love with Saundra that day. I left the restaurant grateful for a new friend and feeling very sorry for Saundra, her four children, and their family.

I did feel very comfortable talking with her. In spite of our different spiritual journeys and the differences in our families, I discovered that we had a lot in common. We were both committed followers of Christ, graduates of Del City High School, attended First Southern Baptist Church as teens, had long successful marriages , were the parents of many older children, loved family, had served in full time ministry in churches, loved sports-especially basketball, loved OU, loved walking, etc., and even loved green tea.

Before we left Charleston’s I asked Saundra if I could call her again to check on how she was doing. In subsequent conversations, I began to see that Saundra is a wonderful Christian woman. I saw that she was a devoted wife and is a devoted mother. I saw that she had very high expectations for her own personal character. I saw she was a servant of servants who lives to make others successful, especially her children. I saw she was full of wisdom and loves to learn-always reading and asking questions, a great listener. I saw she is extremely bright. I saw she has strong beliefs and convictions that she wants to pass on to her children and to others. I saw she is a loyal friend who is very generous but she will not hesitate to speak the truth. I saw she is a hard worker with what appears to be an almost limitless supply of energy. I saw she was someone with whom I could have fun. I saw someone who could be a great friend to our children.

Because of what I saw and admired about Saundra, I discovered a new impression was being made upon my heart, next to the one I have for you.

I proposed marriage to Saundra and to my surprise, she has accepted. I can hear you laugh when I tell you this. When our closest friends began to ask me about remarriage, I told them that I applied to e-harmony and that I was rejected. I was joking of course but I thought it would be impossible for a Pastor with eight children to match up with anyone. But Saundra loves me deeply. She loves our children and I love hers. Our children think she is awesome. This is a miracle to me because they have such an awesome Mom.

Today at 2:00pm I had an appointment to look at a home in Edmond for our families. I believe that was the time of our wedding in Shawnee, Oklahoma, 31 years ago. The house reminded me of the home in which we married, the President’s mansion at Oklahoma Baptist University. You need a mansion when you are the parents of 12 children.

It is so hard to believe our family is experiencing so many dramatic changes. But none of our changes compare to the dramatic change that you experienced on May 3, 2007. You left our home and entered your new mansion. You saw Jesus face to face. You saw your beloved Mom and met mine for the first time. You finished your journey here and starting a new one that is greater than any dreams we shared together. Now, I am starting a new journey of my own.

I know you are well and happy. I envy you. We all miss you. And on this the thirty first anniversary of our wedding, I say good bye one more time, until that day. I am sure there will be others, for me; and for Saundra to John. She understands.

I love you Debbie.

Until that day!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our Rock

Wells Family Update

Our family has been in transition for some time. Debbie and I had talked about these years. As children grow up, they leave home. They get married. They have children. When six of your eight children are only eight years apart, there can be major transitions every year once they are older than 18.

Sometimes I reflect on the good ole days. The good ole days for me are when our family was so stable and predictable year after year. I knew that when I got home from work, all of my family would be at home when I walked in the door. We would all gather together for dinner and have our evenings together unless there was some kind of special event.

The good ole days started coming to an end when our oldest started driving. When he graduated from high school, life for our family really started changing and it seems that every year now another child gets their drivers license and another one graduates from high school.

When we were living the good ole days, Debbie and I thought that those would be the hardest years of our life. It seems so hard when you have so many little ones to care for 24/7.

My son Josh has told his siblings in high school that those days are the easiest days of their life and they need to enjoy it. If you are the parent of many young children, I would tell you the same thing. Those days are not easy but they were the easiest days of our life and you need to enjoy it. Don’t fool yourself by thinking I can’t wait until my children are old enough to drive or my children are old enough to leave home. With greater freedom always comes greater responsibility for you and for them and great transitions bring great change that is really hard.

Debbie and I never anticipated just how many great transitions we would have to make and how much our lives would change. In my childhood, I started making great transitions when I was only three because my mother died. I attended six different grades schools, lived in seven different homes, and had two different step mothers by the time I was 12. Those kinds of things happen when your mother dies and your dad is an alcoholic.

One of my greatest goals as a parent was to have a stable home for my children. It is one of the reasons that we have lived in the same home for 19 years and I have worked at the same church for 24 years. It is one of the reasons that we educated our children at home. It is one of the reasons we traveled to the same vacation location in Colorado for over 20 years. Divorce was never an option, only death. Then the unexpected happened!

I have grieved for my children because they have had to make changes I never wanted them to have to make, especially when one is only 11. I know what it is like to have to make great changes as a child. I also know what it is like to be eleven, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and twenty-two and not have a mother. Mom’s presence creates greater daily stability. Mom’s absence gives you an uneasy feeling about what things will be like tomorrow.

For this reason and so many more we all miss Mom, everyday. We have adjusted so much. It is not as hard. The waves of grief are not as frequent or as large most of the time. We are laughing again, a lot. Dad is more pleasant, I think. We make plans for the future. We dare to dream again.

But we are better acquainted with just how fragile we are and how fragile are plans are!

I am so grateful that I have rock to stand on that does not move when our life changes or when the unexpected occurs. It has been hard but our foundation is firm. We have felt the powerful winds but our Rock has held secure.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Thank you Jesus for being our Rock.

Zach is moving to Macon, Georgia this weekend to help my good friend Bob Hoffman who is the head men’s basketball coach at Mercer University. Zach will be finishing his degree at Macon State University and living with the Hoffman’s. What a gracious family and such dear friends.

Caleb has enlisted in the Army. He is stationed at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma for his basic training. He left yesterday and will be there for nine weeks before getting his next assignment. Please pray for his safety.

Jacob is still selling cars and getting ready to move into a new place.

Grace is working for a foundation called the Burbage Foundation. This foundation promotes family values thru out the state of Oklahoma.

Josh and Jill are expecting their third child in November.

Jeremiah, Mercy, and William are preparing for another year at Christian Heritage Academy. School begins August 20.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

An e-mail from one of Debbie's Friends

Hello Jerry,
You don't know me... I was a Creative Memories Consultant in Oklahoma City several years ago, and through CM I met Debbie. Debbie and I were not close...we were simply friendly acquaintances over a period of a few years. I would see her at CM meetings and events, or we would exchange an email if we were looking for products for our customers.
In January of 2006, God moved my little family to Virginia. I lost touch with many friends and acquaintances from Oklahoma City, but there are some people whom God brings to my mind regularly. Debbie is one of them. I can't tell you how often I've thought of her since moving to Virginia, nor can I explain how how our brief and not very deeply-developed relationship could have fostered such remembrance.
There is an incident in particular that I remember frequently. Debbie and I both started training for a marathon at about the same time. She would sometimes mention her running at our CM meetings. Shortly before the OKC Memorial Marathon that year (I think it was 2004), I ran into Debbie at Lake Hefner. We were both doing a training run... she was with a friend and I was with a group. When Debbie saw me, she literally reached out and grabbed my arm, pulling me close beside her and began chatting with me, never missing a step as she walked briskly along (she and I were both doing the "run / walk" method of training), and treating me as though I were a long lost friend. I was enveloped in her energy and warmth. I was astonished. I was blessed. It was one of those seemingly insignificant moments in life that for whatever reason stays with me and replays over and over in memory.
Due to an ill-timed bout of stomach flu that spring, I did not complete the full marathon but chose to run the half instead. Debbie ran the full and completed it in great form for a first timer. I think her time was under 5:30. A year later, I emailed Debbie to see if she had run the OKC Marathon again. She had... and said she felt even better the second time through it. I had put my marathon training on hold by then, but I knew that one day I would get through those 26.2 miles and that inspiration would come in part from remembering how Debbie Wells made up her mind to run a marathon and did it... just like that!
Yesterday, May 4th, 2008, I ran those 26.2 miles. Today as I sat feeling the satisfaction of having gone the distance, I thought of Debbie. I wanted to let her know that I finally did it. I wondered if she had run the OKC Memorial again this year and decided to google her name on the web. I expected to find marathon race results. I found instead a heart wrenching account of Debbie's last year on earth. I am stunned.
Beyond the jolt of realizing that Debbie is gone, I am also moved by your account of the impact this has had on you. By articulating some of what has gone on within you through losing Debbie, you open windows for others to be able to look inside themselves. I am small compared to many others of faith. I'm often a coward... a skeptic. As I read your honest writing about pain mixed with praise for God, I felt encouraged. Thank you.
I pray that God will continue to reveal His exquisite nature to you even as He has you walk the excruciating path of having lost your best friend here on earth.
Kim Ray

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Update From Grace On May 3, 2008-Why?

Why? It seems i ask this question more than any other. Saturday will be one year since my mom left this world to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. I know she is no longer suffering and she is having an awesome time sitting there at Jesus' feet taking it all in. But why did she have to leave us now?

Coming up on this one year anniversary has been almost as hard as when she died. Every morning i wake up wishing i could just talk to her and tell her what is going on in my life.So much has happened since last year. I graduated, got a job, Josh and Jill Gwyn and Caedmon moved in with us, my three younger siblings are going to Christian Heritage Academy (which was one of mom's dreams) , Josh is about to graduate from law school, Jill is going to have another baby, holidays, birthdays, and so much more that mom is not here to experience with us. Why?Last week all of us kids and dad sat around remembering things about mom, talking about what we miss. If you ever met my mom you would know her gift was words of encouragement. You could be having the crappiest day and just talking to her would make everything seem better. Even when she was so sick in her hospital bed, the cancer eating away her life, every time we walked into that room she had the biggest smile on her face and no matter how much pain she was in she would focus on us and how we were doing. So, why? I remember that day, Thursday May 3rd waking up not knowing what the day would hold. I remember praying and hoping that God would heal her and take away all the pain (that was every one's prayer) and He did. She is not hurting anymore, mom always wanted to conduct a choir and orchestra, i know that's what she is doing now in heaven glorifying God in everything. But still why?Why does my dad have to go on with out the love of his life, the one person who understood him best and loved him through everything. Why does my 11 year old brother have to go on without his mother to help him through. The rest of s kids have to go on without our number one "cheerleader" in our lives. Our kids will never know how awesome their Nana was. Why?Through this entire circumstance the six months she was sick, her death, and now one year later I still don't know why.

It seemed through the whole ordeal there was no God, i had that thought so many times. I would think if there is a God why would He let this happen? Then i would see my mom and her faith and my dad and his faith and i could see the life my mom lived effected so many people and it is only because of Christ i had such and amazing mother who has left a lasting legacy for me and my brothers and sister and her grandchildren and so many others.

So now my question is no longer why, because i will never get that answer till i am face to face with my savior. Now i ask what, Lord what do You want me to do with this awesome testimony of my mom? Lord what do You want me to learn through this whole situation? Everything is going to be ok, i am going to be ok, my family is going to be ok. It is only because of Jesus Christ we can say thank you, thank you for all you have done for me and my family. Lord teach us to grow closer to you and trust you in everything no matter the circumstances. I love you mom, and can't wait to see you again!..

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Firsts

April 3, 2008-More than eleven months have passed since Debbie left us. I have been anticipating this month and how emotional it would be for us. Pray for us.

More firsts for our family since my last update. February 12, our first anniversary of Debbie’s birthday on earth without her. February 14, our first Valentine’s Day on earth without her. March 14-21, our first family vacation on earth without her. March 23, our first Easter and our first Easter pictures without her. March 24, Will’s first birthday without his Mom. Will is now eleven.

All of these firsts without Debbie are very difficult for all of my family. I am so proud of my children. I know they are hurting at times. I am amazed they handle it so gracefully. They miss their Mom so much but they are adjusting and are learning how to enjoy life without her. I am so grateful that they have come so far in such a short period of time.

It is my tradition to lay my hands on my children and bless them in prayer on their birthday. As I started to pray for Will, I noticed that he removed something from his pocket and held it in his hand. It was the clinging cross that his mother held so much the last few weeks of her life.

As I prayed for him for his birthday, clinging to that cross was his way of remembering his mom on his birthday. Clinging to that cross was his way of trying to feel close to her on his birthday. Clinging to that cross was his way of having hope that one day they will be reunited. Clinging to that cross was his way of expressing his faith that he could be successful without his mom.

One day I asked Will why he seemed to grieve more over the death of his granny in 2004 then he did his mother in 2007. Will said to me emphatically, “I did not understand then where granny went. I know where Mom is!” Thank you Will!

My beloved Mom Joy Burgess has suffered much in the last six weeks. She has always gone beyond the call of duty to care for us. Now she is the recipient. It started with a bout of pneumonia. She then broke a finger on her left hand. She then fell and severely broke her right arm. Our family doctor called it the perfect storm. Nearly two weeks in the hospital and now nearly three weeks recovering at Ginger’s home. The road to recovery is still long but she is determined. God is being merciful to all of us by renewing her strength day by day. Please pray for her.

My sister Sandy had hip surgery. She has suffered for many years with pain in her back. Hopefully this surgery will relief the pain. Please pray for her.

Mercy continues in Physical Therapy to recover from knee surgery. She is working very hard. Things are going well. I am so proud of her.

Josh will graduate from Law School on May 17. What a hero! I am talking about Jill. What would Josh do without a wife like Jill? On Easter Sunday, they announced that grandchild number three was on the way.

Josh has worked full time for the last four years to support his family while completing law school at nights. He has been the executive editor for the OCU Law Review. He ranks very high in his class and even higher in our eyes. I am so proud of him as are all the Wells. Because of his character, he is a brother to be admired and followed. Congratulations Josh!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mercy's Surgery

What a courageous little girl. I only saw one little tear just before they took her back to operate on her knee. I am sure that tear was for her mother but I did not ask.

We were back at the same surgery center where we were just a year ago. Grace had the very same injury and surgery. Debbie was there a year ago; the same surgery center; the same waiting area; you get the picture. Debbie had just received a great report on February 8. The cancer was in remission. She was feeling good. We never expected she would only be with us for just ten more weeks.

There is no one like Mom in these circumstances. We all try to fill the gap. Our support system is broader and stronger than most families. Grandmother Joy, Aunt Teresa, Aunt Ginger, brother Zach, sister Grace; sister in law Jill and my two grand babies were all there. We had a visit from Odus, one of our Pastors at church; many calls, text messages, and e-mails from family and friends. Thank you! But there is no one like Mom. She was greatly missed; again; by Mercy; by all of us.

Dr. Low was exceptional as we would expect. He has now done six surgeries on four of my children. He is so meticulous and compassionate; a rare combination. He covers every detail of the procedure. Then he leads us in prayer entrusting his patient and his skills to the chief physician.

Everything went according to plan; torn ACL in right knee replaced by a hamstring harvested from Mercy’s right leg and torn lateral meniscus removed without incident.

Mercy was Mercy; like her mother; thinking and caring about everyone else; full of gratefulness for everything that anyone did for her; smiling; apologizing for being so much trouble; encouraging; always encouraging.

So Debbie was there; again thru one of her children; her legacy lives on. Thank you Mercy!

And Jesus was there; again thru many of His children; His legacy lives on. Thank you Jesus!


P.S. Mercy is recovering at home.