art lawler cutout.jpg

“Lord help me Jesus I've wasted it...

So help me Jesus, You know what I am

Now that I know that I've needed you...

So help me Jesus my soul's in Your hands.” —— “Why Me, Lord?” — Kris Kristofferson

Good morning, Jesus. You know why I’m calling on you today. My heart is broken, and my sense of humility is uncharacteristically-high.

As one of earth’s all-pro sinners, I now have the gall to come calling, to ask yet again, for your help in getting the right words to our readers.

How can I tell their hearts in a believable way about the greatest Christian I’ve ever known?

You know, the woman I divorced back in 1980?

 The woman whose love for her grandchildren had resulted in 10-year-old Garrison, surprising us all by climbing into her death bed a couple of nights ago, curling up in the fetal position, and going to sleep, secure, as always, at grandmother’s side.

A day later, after Garrison was whisked off to his other grandmother’s house, Grandmother Kay, the beloved Kay breathed her last.

She would have arrived at your gate in the wee-morning hours of Monday.

I’m sure she ran straight into the arms of our daughter Shari when she arrived — the one who left these boundaries back in 1996.  I know how much Kay had missed her these last 16 years. It must have been a wonderful reunion.

We weren’t at the hospice to try to pray Kay back to her earthly boundaries. We knew that was no longer an option. Her second stroke in less than a decade left nothing to doubt this time.

The same Abilene neurologist who worked with you to accomplish miracles in bringing her back nine years ago, sat down with us again, and this time he made clear what all great doctors hate most, by confessing they’re really not you.

He ended this meeting with tears in his eyes, and a lump in his throat.

“I’ve done this a thousand times and it never gets any easier,” he said, as he got up and left.

The instinctive human struggle to hang on to the boundaries we’ve all grown so comfortable with, is mighty, as you know, Jesus.

But my son Brien, and his wife Shana were the only people left in the room after the rest of us returned to our jobs and our families on Sunday evening, not knowing if she’d breathe for an hour or two, or a week or two.

A hospice nurse talked to them, and told them that in her experience, dying patients go in one of two directions. Some hang on until a family member can arrive.  Others hang on until the room is empty, as if their death might disturb the people they love.

That would be our Kay.

Anyway, Brien and Shana, exhausted with grief and stress, spoke softly from their hearts, and told Kay they were going to walk down the hall for a few minutes. If she wanted to go, while they were out, it was fine; that they understood and wished her Godspeed.

When they returned in less than 10 minutes, Kay was with you.

Before I left earlier that afternoon, I had spent three days listening to you, and talking to Kay, remembering all the wonderful things this person did for others, for her church, her husband Jerry, her grandchildren and for me.

Her whole life was about sacrifice for others. She wasted no time posing as a judge, or a jury, or an executioner.

She wasn’t one of your showy Christians, like say that young man Tebow you’ve been working so hard with of-late. She just loved people. To this day, I’ve never heard anyone say a negative word about her.

She was a soft-spoken volunteer in the Episcopal church she attended in Abilene, working to bring comfort to the sick and the dying. One of the many men and women who stopped by the hospice told me that Kay had been one of the best of these volunteers.

She said Kay’s ability to quietly listen with empathy, and to share her gentle smile and soft words of love and support, had inspired her when she was ill.

The woman said she was there attempting to repay, in some small way, what Kay had done for her during some very dark hours in her own life.

Shana, my daughter-in-law and her family, were able to provide a home in the country where my son, his wife, and I could go to rest for a few hours when exhaustion and grief temporarily overtook us.

The last night, as Brien and I were going into the house, I glanced up, and was reminded of what kept me in West Texas for more than 20 years.

People can talk about your hard-scrabble earth and the flat plains and the wind all they want, but as you well know, Jesus, there is no more beautiful sky on this planet than the canopy that covers the vast heavens of West Texas.

I was stopped in my tracks, and told Brien to look up. Behind the pitch-black background, in the cool, crisp air, the sky was literally strewn with big fat stars, shining extra-bright it seemed to me. Nowhere but West Texas, it seems, has so many fat stars. Thank you for that welcoming committee for Kay.

You were planning a huge welcome party for Kay, and turning on the big lights for the occasion, right? She would never require a stage like that,  heaven forbid, but no one has earned one more.

My second wife, Janet, who also divorced me after 20 years, called this morning. We could barely talk from all the choking going on in our voices, but she finally managed to say, “Kay was the most gracious person I have ever known.” I told her God never made a better person. She agreed.

Those two women, Kay and Janet, in spite of me, grew to love one another. They even sat together at Brien’s soccer games for a decade. When the families have wanted to get together from all over Texas, we always chose to meet in Abilene at Kay and Jerry’s house. Kay was a great cook and wonderful host.

And now, you’ve blessed me for a third time with Donna,  the last 3.5 years, “Why Me, Lord?  Aren’t you worried I’ll just screw it up again?

Which brings me to the real purpose of all these words, Jesus.

My heart wants to apologize for so much today, and to ask for some undeserved forgiveness.

Those two marriages I put asunder by stubbornly doing things my own way, were the worst, and most embarrassing moments of my life. You did leave me in the wilderness for a decade this time for contemplation. 

I think I learned quite a bit before you put Donna in my path.  I’d rather die than fail this woman, but I’m going to need a lot of  help, as usual.

Finally, I want to say this to Kay:

In spite of everything I did to kill your love for me, you never stopped loving me. Because of that, I could never stop loving you. This stuff works.

,When we got married back in 1963, I was a little boy in man pants, posing as a grown-up. I was 18 going on 13. You were 17, going on 19, and already an adult. The gap just kept widening from there.

When you couldn’t make a good husband out of me, you made me your life-long friend. You became my spiritual sister, and tripled the strength of our love for each other in the process.

“Why me, Lord?”

As for Kay, this sweet, beautiful  woman from my past,  I am so very, very sorry I wasn’t a better man. I wasn’t even a very good child.

I want nothing more, Jesus, than to give Donna a more gentle life, and the peace both of you have given me.

Not everyone understands my relationship with this young woman, or even with you, Jesus.

But I absolutely know, my mother does, and Janet does, and Kay did and I believe you do, also.  All of you soften my heart.

You know what’s so great about Christianity, Jesus? All the people who really, really get it, could condemn me, but they choose instead to keep on loving me in so many different ways.

I can counter hate and self-righteousness  with my own hate and self-righteousness, and everyone winds up losing.

But this — this unconditional love — it overwhelms me, and brings me to my knees in gratitude.

Thank you God for being love, and for crawling inside the best and the worst of us, and waiting us out. Sooner or later, we run across our own Kays, who show us that you’ve been burrowed deep inside us the whole time.

Art Lawler is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.

Recommended for you