Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Little Background Info

I thought I would share a little background information first.

My dad, Dwight, was from Illinois, which was where I was born and lived until I was 4. Then we moved to Arkansas where my mom, Emma, was from. I went to kindergarten (wasn't required back then), and when I was in the 2nd grade my parents divorced. My mom and I moved in with my grandmother here in Arkansas, and my dad and brother went to California. (I only had one brother, Dennis, and he was 4 years older than me.)

At the beginning of summer after I finished 6th grade my parents remarried and off we went to live in sunny California.

Just to deter off a little here, I remember not wanting people in California to know that I was from Arkansas, so I used some Q-T (self-tanning lotion) so I would be tanned, like you think all the girls from California are. If you have ever tried to use Q-T you would know that there is an art to applying it. Needless to say I ended up with very noticable orange markings on my hands. Evidently I didn't rub it in very well and had dark spots and lighter spots. And there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. A couple of days after arriving in San Jose my dad took us to an ice cream stand. Naturally I was embarrassed about my new orange coloring and didn't want to go to the window but my dad insisted I be the one to order. Would you believe the lady never said anything about my "tan"!! Instead, she immediately commented "you must be from the south cause you sure have a southern drawl"! I was devastated! Never did I give any thought people would know where I was from because of the way I talked. Maybe I thought everyone talked that way, I really don't know. My parents, however, thought the whole episode was hilarious and I probably cried and pouted all the way back home. Anyway....

Summer was almost over and school was about to start when my dad got word that my grandpa in Illinois had passed away. Since it was financially a hardship to attend the funeral services, my dad was the only one who went. Shortly after he returned to California they made a decision to move back to Illinois.

I was kind of glad really, because I wasn't looking forward to attending school there. You have to remember I came from a town of less than 8,000 people and about to start school in San Jose, then a population of over 200,000. It was getting a little overwhelming.

In spite of the divorce I had a wonderful childhood, filled with love, family and good friends. Even though I remained in Illinois for almost 30 years, my heart was always in Arkansas. I knew that one day I would return.

After graduating high school, I married, and soon had two sons, Lonny and Kyle. However, my husband and I divorced after 7 years. With my brother married and 3 children, my parents enjoying being grandparents, and the responsibility of raising my 2 boys alone, a move back to Arkansas didn't seem to be in the picture.

Dennis, my brother had been serving the Lord since about 1979. I knew that he prayed for me and longed for both my parents and me to dedicate our lives to the Lord. At the time I didn't feel like I was ready to make those changes in my life. However, in 1990 Dennis invited a country gospel group from Arkansas to come and minister in the area where we lived. My cousin sang harmony and played keyboard for the group, so naturally I would attend their singings and pretty much be around every waking moment I could just to visit with her.

I had an on-again, off-again relationship with a man for 10 years. I had known for some time that it needed to end, but sometimes as humans we tend to think that familiarity with a relationship is better than the unknown you may face alone. So I was still struggling with breaking things off.

It was the beginning of a new year, 1991 to be exact, and I began to feel a huge void in my life. And it wasn't because I was seeing less of this man. I knew that it was a void that only the Lord could fill.

I can remember in April that gospel group came to minister again and Dennis had already had a cough for a few weeks. But he assured everyone it was just sinus or something.

The end of May my dad was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly and required surgery. The need arose for additional surgery but because of his emphysema they transferred him for the second surgery to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL, which was about 2 hours away.

Meanwhile they had been running tests and such to determine what was wrong with Dennis. He had lost 24 lbs in one week. After each test was performed they would always say "At least we know he doesn't have cancer". Which, naturally, was in everyone' mind. So that was always comforting to rule out. The doctors then decided to send him to an allergy specialist in Springfield, whom admitted him to St. John's Hospital. So my dad was in one hospital, and my brother in another.

After running a few tests on Dennis they decided to do a lung biopsy. The doctors had been wrong. He did indeed have cancer, it was in the lining around his lungs, which apparently is why it had been difficult to diagnose.

Not to get into a lot of details, I will say it was a very difficult time for obvious reasons. However, the Lord was continuing to do a work in me. I saw so much of Christ in the friends and family of my brother. The peace, comfort and that understanding that passeth all, that they seemed to share. Even throughout the situation I knew that I was being blessed by God. There were so many events that took place during this time that as I looked back I could see things unfolding. I knew that my parents believed in God, but they didn't attend church or profess to be Christians. But things even occurred with my dad that I knew, at some point during this situation, and even though he never said anything, my dad had asked the Lord into his life. On July 8th my dad went on to be with the Lord.

Now we were faced with telling Dennis. Because of discomfort with his disease, etc. he had only seen dad for about 5 minutes since dad's initial surgery in May until his death. Dennis was unable to attend the funeral services, but requested that we video it for him.

Dennis was finally allowed to return home in August. About a week later he was admitted to the hospital for congestive heart failure. I wish that I could relate to you the greatness of the Lord that I had observed throughout this. I'm certain many of you have experienced it in your own situations. God is an awesome God!

On Friday, August 9th, 1991 in my brother's hospital room, with him holding my hand, my mom and I dedicated our lives to the Lord. Sunday afternoon, August 11th Dennis went to meet his Creator.

Within a few short months my mom and I decided there was really no reason to remain in Illinois. We were going home to Arkansas. Her mother was still living there, as well as a brother, sister, nieces and cousins. The plan was we would sell our houses, move to Arkansas and live together and raise my sons. And I was content to do just that. But you know, our plans are not necessarily the Lord's plans!



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Barb said...

That's so sad Cheryl. So sad. I don't even know what to say. I understand losing a brother. I lost mine two years ago and it's very difficult to accept because he chose suicide. I'm so sorry, even after all this time, for your loss.

Chappyswife said...

I am sorry for the loss of your dad and your brother. What an incredible gift that you gave to your brother by accepting Jesus. That is the most precious gift anyone could ever give me, so that I know that our goodbyes will be temporary.