It was through Daphne that I first learned about Julie. Daphne had been a valued friend for several years. When I first met her I thought she was a Hallmark model. With her ear-to-ear smile, beautiful teeth, dark hair and joyful laughter she was a delight. I'll never forget her joyful faith. She bubbled over with gratefulness.
One day as we visited she asked if I would help her friend...Julie. Daphne had introduced me to several other friends over the years. Her tender heart and charisma always got results. So I looked forward to meeting Julie.
Julie was thin, light-haired and an introverted woman...probably in her mid-thirties. I listened as she expressed deep grief, sadness, and fear about her husband Ted, and son Perry. "They just won't..." she wept.
"Tenderly I spoke, "Please go ahead, Julie. I'm here to help you."
"I'm very sick...I have cancer...I'm going to die...but Ted just can't accept it. I tried to get him to help me explain it to Perry...but he wouldn't do it. He said, "Julie, you promised you'd never leave me." I told him the doctor said the tumor is close to my brain stem and is inoperable. But, he repeated, "You told me you'd never leave me."
"Have you been able to talk to Perry yet?
"No. I just don't know-how. Perry and his Dad are not Christians yet and my dream of seeing them come to the Lord isn't going to happen now. I'm not sad about dying. I'm looking forward to being freed from these awful headaches. Heaven will mean no more pain or sorrow. But I feel ripped wide open about my men. I'm letting them down."
Admiring her strong faith and yet feeling anguished over her desperate plight I asked, "Julie how might I help you the most?"
We visited about the numerous items needing attention during her final days. After the mundane concerns were completed Julie began weeping again. This time more mournfully. Wiping her face she winced, "Will...you...do...me...one...last...favor? Just...one?"
"Absolutely, Julie. What is it?"
"Will you take my place?"
Stupefied, I gestured for her to explain.
"When I die will you take my place and lead my husband and son to Christ? I can't bear the thought of never seeing them again."
My jaw locked. I had never heard such a plea...an intensely passionate plea it was.
Finally, I whispered, "Julie I will do my best."
"Will you hold my hand, look me in the eyes and promise me?"
I'll never forget that moment. It struck me like a lightning bolt. I can still see her woefully poignant eyes. My focus was blurry like trying to see through a rain-drenched windshield.
Her Memorial Service was a modest event attended by church members and her extended family.
I rode in the hearse up the winding road to the grave site on a bucolic hillside overlooking a scenic river and mountain peaks.
As the internment began I quickly locked arms with Ted...fearing he might do something desperate. It was a smart decision as it took all of my strength and pleading words to get him through this ordeal. I suspect my coat still has some of his tears on it. I can't ever recall a man sobbing like Ted. Between gasps, he kept uttering, "Julie you promised you'd never leave me."
I tried my best to keep my promise to Julie. But day after day Ted wasn't home or at work. I wondered if he had moved or worse. After a week or two the neighbor came out, "Son, I've seen you knocking on that door nearly every day. But Ted doesn't come home much anymore. He is still grieving horribly."
Do you have any idea where he might be? I need to talk with him."
Oh, I thought maybe you knew. He...he goes to her graveside every day...for hours.
As my car crested the final rise I could see Ted's car. I parked next to it and hoped he was inside. But the car was empty. I walked along the bluff looking down at the grave sites, not seeing anyone. Until from the corner of my eye, I saw movement.
Someone was lying on the grass, moaning, and mumbling. I couldn't recognize the words, but I knew that distinctive voice. It was Ted. He was lying on her gravesite pounding his fists in the sod and crying out... "Julie, you promised me you'd never leave me. Please come back. I miss you so."
Later I learned he had quit his job, sent Perry to live with Julie's sister and laid on her grave desperately ~ day after day, rain or shine, calling for her to come back. When I spoke he was silent and didn't turn to look at me. I nudged his shoulder pleading for him to rise up and chat. He was disheveled and unshaven. His clothes were soiled and he was shivering in the cold.
Irritably he told me to go away and live him to his grief.
"Ted, I have a message from Julie. If you'll sit in my car I'll share it with you."
This perked some curiosity and he studied my face to see if I was being truthful.
He arose and we got out of the frosty morning. I turned the heater to high trying to warm his frigid body.
I was overjoyed to keep half of my promise. Julie's sister and I taught Perry about the Lord Jesus and were thrilled to see him become a Christian. She was a lot like her sister and he trusted her. She nurtured him through the dark times and we all rejoiced for his Mom's dream come true.
Ted never recovered. In a later visit as his gray was turning white, I said, "Ted, if Julie could sing one final song to you ~ it would be:
Over 50 years ago a dear older minister, Ed Henry, shared a song he'd written about heaven. But today all I can recall is this phrase, "No tears in Heaven, How Can it be because I'll know I'll cry when he calls my name." I believe Julie suffered no more pain or sensed the heartbroken story about her husband. And if she did shed a tear that is the language God understands and He would have wiped her eyes.
I found great courage in the Psalmist's words, "Lord, you know all my desires and deepest longings. My tears are liquid words and you can read them all." (Psalms 38"9', TPT)
Please comment by clicking "Comments" below.