Sunday, March 22, 2009

Audrey Part X- THE END

      I was not going to have conversations about Audrey's money anymore.  Nor was I going to give Audrey financial advice.  Who was I to tell her what she could/should do with her money anyway?  Still, it didn't change the fact that I just couldn't stand the thought of someone like Barbara receiving a significant amount of money.  

    While I was not going to have conversations about money with Audrey, I was going to have a few conversations with her whether she liked it or not.  And, for the record, she always liked it. She enjoyed having conversations with me... that I can be sure of.

    If you remember, I started telling this story because of I was afraid of Paul filling in for the pastor of a very large church in our area and giving the sermon, 3 separate times.  I always grow a little bit nervous whenever he speaks.  I can trace it all back to Paul's first funeral, Harold's. (Audrey's husband). It matters not that my husband has redeemed himself time and time again.  I was scarred that day.  Scarred, because in the middle of Harold's eulogy, Paul remembered that he had not even met Harold.  So, all of a sudden, he decided he could not speak with certainty on the eternal destination of Harold. Since he could not, he said, "Harold is in Heaven... hopefully.  (long pause)  And, Audrey will soon be joining him.... like in 5, 10 or 20 years."

     I decided with Audrey, I wanted to do more than 'hopefully.'  So, I shared the most important part of me with Audrey, my faith.  My faith is wrapped up in  His story (history).

     His story, takes the whole Bible.  And, at the center of His Story, there is a baby, the Child upon whom everything would depend.  From Noah to Moses to King David, every story in the Bible whispers his name, Jesus. 

     Paraphrase of John 1:12-13 For anyone who says yes to Jesus.  For anyone who believes what Jesus said.  For anyone who will just reach out and take it.  Then God will give them this wonderful gift:  To be born into a whole new Life.  To be who they really are.  Who God always made them to be- Their own true selves- God's dear child.

     John 3:16-17 (paraphrase) "Jesus said, 'God loved the people of the world so much that he gave his only Son.  So that anyone who believes in him will have eternal life and never really die.  He did not send his Son into the world to punish people.  He sent him to rescue them.'"

     Jesus died a criminal's death.  The humiliating death of being nailed to a cross.  But, he rose again.   And, when he did, He said, "Go everywhere and tell everyone the happy news.  

     "Tell them I love them so much that I died for them.  It's the truth that overcomes the terrible lie.  God loves his children.  Yes, he really does!"

      "Now everyone can come to God, " Jesus said.  "Death is not the end of you.  You can live forever with your Father in heaven because I have rescued the whole world!"

     I wanted Audrey to choose Jesus.  I wanted her to know that death didn't have to be the end for her. 
    I shared these things with Audrey a few times.  Not exactly like I just did or in as lengthy of a manner.   I was never pushy.  People don't really care how much you know... until they know how much you care.  My mom and I took the same approach.  We shared the gospel with Audrey as often as we could, without using words (St. Francis of Asissi).  We loved her.  Both of us really did.  Neither mom nor I ever had a good grandma.  Audrey was as quirky as they come, but we had a love for her.  I think, she became like a grandma to both of us.  

    We never really had a grandma and Audrey never had children or grandchildren.  I like to think God puts families together... even if it's at the end of one's life.  After all, that's when Audrey needed a daughter and a grand-daughter most.

     We also served her.  We, especially my mom, gave and gave and gave without ever expecting anything in return.  Audrey had made it clear that whatever was left when she died had to go to Barbara and/or her son, Russell.  Or, it was to go to the state.  

     Unfortunately or fortunately, however you look at it, this life comes to an end.  In  the fall of 2002,  Audrey began complaining about her back hurting.  She also mentioned she was having trouble breathing.  My mom made her an appointment and took her to the doctor.  The doctor ordered an x-ray. 

     We were very surprised when the test results came back and showed Audrey had lung cancer. We expected the tests to show something, just not cancer.  The doctor decided it would not be worth putting her body through chemo or radiation.  At 91, she may die from the treatments before she'd die from the lung cancer.  Regardless,  Audrey was left with a little bit of time.  

     I imagine getting a diagnosis like that, one's life plays like a movie on the screen of their mind.  I think everyone will have regrets, some many more than others.  Some people, like Natasha Richardson, will not be given time to think through final decisions.  Others, like Audrey, are given a time of grace, a time to let good decisions cancel out some of the bad ones. A final chance to let good triumph over evil.  

     At the end of May 2003, Audrey asked to speak with her lawyer, Brian. She said she wanted to change her will.  Usually, my mom left when Audrey met with him.  This time, however, Audrey asked her to stay. 

     "Audrey, what about your will do you want to change?", asked Brian.
     Audrey looked at him and said, "Can I leave my money to you?"  

(Sorry!  I have to interject here!  Um... why on God's green earth would any normal human being asked to leave her money to a lawyer?  Are you kidding me!!??  And, ask in front of someone who has given years of her life helping you FOR NOTHING!!)

    "No!  You can't leave it to me!  You are already paying me!"

     He stopped to give her time to think.  After a few minutes of silence, Brian said, "Audrey, why don't you leave it to the people who have helped you the most?"

And what happened then...? Who-ville they say That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!

     Oh, sorry!  Wrong story.

     Something did change in Audrey's heart that day.  She changed her will completely.  

     About 3 weeks (June 16) after that change of heart, it was obvious Audrey was in her final days.  I had given birth to Jackson on May 2 and we moved on June 2.  Moving 4 weeks after giving birth, with another baby who wasn't even 2 yet and a 4 year old (almost 5)... I wasn't able to make the 45 minute drive to see Audrey very often.  

     I was able to make the trip once to introduce Jackson to Audrey.  And, then, I was able to make it one final time when she was still coherent but very much in and out.  I sat by her bed feeling very sad.  My heart was broken for Audrey.

     She was almost 91 years old and the only person sitting with her on one of her final days was a young woman she met at a grocery store.  How do you get to the place in life where you have no one?  I hope I never know.   I was humbled that God would use me.  I hoped that she felt God's love as she lay there waiting to take her last breath. 

     I was able to tell her that I loved her.  And, I shared Jesus with her one final time.

     My mom hardly left Audrey's room the days prior to her death.  She did not want Audrey to die alone.  She made sure the nurses at the assisted living facility knew that.  

     Unfortunately, one night I talked my mom into staying at her own home and getting some sleep.  I assured her if Audrey grew worse during the night, they would call her. 

     They did call... after Audrey had passed.  It happened at about 3:30 in the morning on June 20, 2003.  My mom was very, very upset that she wasn't there.  I understood her sadness. However, I think Audrey waited to die.  I think she wanted to die alone.  She didn't want my mom to have to have to watch.

     Audrey had a very small graveside service.  Paul was the minister in charge of the service.  He did a great job delivering the message to the 10 people that were there.  It was a message of the hope we have in Christ.  The message we hoped Audrey had chosen to receive.

     My parents, myself, Paul and the kids went out to lunch and talked about Audrey.  We talked about how she could be sweet one minute and then down right quirky the next minute.  Never mean.... just, quirky.  That is the best word I can use to describe her.

    To illustrate, this is my favorite example.  I mentioned earlier that Audrey loved for my parents to take her to dinner.  About the last year of Audrey's life, her hands ached a lot, they shook a bit and it hurt her to write.  So, she began having my mom sign her credit card receipts. Once, right after my mom signed, she looked at my mom and said, "I can't believe you just did that.  You could get in trouble for signing some else's name like that."

     My mom looked at Audrey and said, "Audrey, I have done this 1oo times before this because you have asked me to.  I don't know what you are trying to pull, but if you do it again, we'll stop going out to dinner."

     Of course, it never happened again.

     Anyway, after lunch, we went back and began cleaning Audrey's room.  We had about a week to do it. So, we did it in stages.  First, we threw away things like old newspaper clippings and other odd things she was always saving.  Next, we packed up her clothes and gave them to the Salvation Army.  Then, we packed up the pictures that were on the wall and lots of other odds and ends.   Things she had for Shelby when she would visit: coloring books, crayons, picture books, and a little chair. Finally, we were down to just the furniture.  

     Audrey had told me one day before she died that she wanted me to have the antique beds, the side table and a beautiful antique chest.  I was so thankful.  I still am.  I love that when I look at these pieces of furniture in my house that there is a story behind them.  A very interesting story at that.  I love that she wanted me to have them.  I will always cherish them.

     The last order of business was for my mom, the executor, to carry out the things Audrey had in her will.

   Remember Betty?  Audrey left her and her husband $2000 each.  She left my dad $2000. Paul and I received $2000 each.  And, the neighbors that used to help with the house, she left each of them $1000.  She also left $500 to a local Lutheran Church, $1000 to the local Girl Scout Trail Counsel, and $200 to the local Humane Society.

     $100,000 was put into a living trust with her lawyer, Brian,  appointed as trustee.  This money was for Barbara.  And, in the event that Barbara was no longer alive, it was to go to her son, Russell.

     If there was anything left after all those funds were distributed, it was to be split between my mom and Betty.  I think they each received around $60,000.  

     About 2 months after Audrey died, my mom received a call from the lawyer's office.  They had tracked Barbara down.  Of course, that sent chills up and down my mom's spine.  The last thing we wanted or needed was for this crazy lady to come back to her old stomping grounds and start turning over leaves looking for trouble.  I am sure we would have been first on the list of people she would to come after.

    However, the phone call took us in a different direction.  In the year 2000, the year we moved Audrey into the assisted living facility, Barbara died in a trailer, by herself, in Arizona. Her body was not found until she had been dead for several days.  At that point, her body had been subjected to the temperature swings of the desert and therefore,  the report was a bit gruesome.  The lawyer's secretary didn't go into much more detail.

     Now, the $100,000 is being held for Barbara's son... whom no one has found.  In the event he is not found, it would again be split by my mom and Betty.


     Betty, the only other person to be a constant in Audrey's life.  Betty served Audrey probably 10 years before we came into the picture.  Betty was very suspicious and cold during our several encounters.  All one had to do it watch the news to understand why.  People prey on old, vulnerable people like Audrey.  But, as time passed, all Betty's suspicions melted away.  As a matter of fact, since Betty was becoming more feeble herself, I sensed a relief that all Audrey's responsibilities were not on her shoulders.  Betty and my mom developed a really good friendship.  Betty is in her 90's now.  She and my mom still talk on the phone.  She is starting to forget a lot of things now.  My mom called her to ask her a few details for me.  It was sad because she couldn't even remember of the bigger events... like the house.

     The events in this story are true.  I filled in a few details here and there, but for the most part, the story is 100% true.

     Thanks for hanging in there and reading it!  I have enjoyed remembering everything and sharing it with all of you.

       I really would love to write a book.  It would be much different than what I have written in my blog.  I am in the process of praying and praying about it while I research different things.  It can be a dark story.  My fear... I want whatever I do in my life to bring honor and glory to God.  The letter I put in my blog... I know it was nasty but no where near what was actually written.  I shared it because it was part of the story.  It's life.  Life is messy and ugly, sometimes.  But, you know what, Barbara and Audrey... those are the kinda people Jesus would have been hanging out with.  Besides, the Bible isn't exactly the cleanest book.  Have you read it?  Murder, incest, rape, adultery....

     The ugliness and messiness of life, is a constant reminder of our need for a Savior.  With Jesus, we have the hope of a life that is beyond our imagination and almost beyond description. Jesus gave John a dream in the book of Revelation.  He told John to write it down so that we could read it and wait with happy excitement.

     It went something like this:

     .... And I see Satan- God's horrible enemy- thrown down, defeated

         I see a sparkling city shimmering in the sky: glittering, glowing, coming down!  From Heaven.  And from the sky.  Heaven is coming down to earth!

     God's city is beautiful.  Walls of topaz, jasper, sapphire.  Wide streets paved with gold.  Gleaming pearl gates that are never locked shut.

     Where is the sun?  Where is the moon?  They aren't needed anymore.  God is all the Light people need.  No more darkness!  Nor more night!

     And the King says, "Look!  God and his children are together again.  No more running away.  Or hiding.  No more crying or being lonely or afraid.  No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone.  Yes, they're gone forever.  Everything sad has come untrue.  And see- I have wiped away every tear from every eye!"

     And then a deep, beautiful voice that sound like thunder in the sky says, "Look, I am making everything new!"

     The most wonderful thing about His story... it can be your story too!!

**** The words in red were taken from  The Jesus Storybook Bible  written by Sally-Lloyd-Jones.  If you are looking for a place to start, a place to really understand the Bible.  This kids Bible is one of the best I have ever read.  It makes everything so clear and easy to understand.


Darja said...

april! i loved that! fantastic ending :)

Lori said...

April, if I didn't already know and love Jesus, I really think the love you showed Audrey as told in your story would really have me thinking about turning my life to Him. I truly hope that someone reading your story will stop and consider that eternity is at stake...but not only that, life on earth is filled with abundance when we know the Lord.

I will be praying that your words will penetrate the heart of at least one person. And that as you begin to write your book, the Holy Spirit would direct you and give you the exact words to write.

Thank you for taking so much time to share your was entertaining and thought provoking.

I hope you have some more stories tucked away that you can bring to us in the future!

Kim said...

That was an amazing story of love. I am so glad you shared it with all of us. There may have been parts of the story that had me shaking my head in sadness or disgust, but like you said - life is messy. Thank you for taking so much time and effort to bring us this wonderful story.

Jenney said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was entertaining, sad, hopeful, and inspiring. Did Betty ever come to know the Lord?

gnangle04 said...

What a great ending! And yes, life is messy... what's the point in pretending it's not?! We heard at church last month that we will never, ever look into the eyes of a person that does not matter to God. I guess we need to remember that when we hear about people like Barbara, or even Audrey.
Thanks for your story, and for bringing light into it.

Gina said...

That was great April! I can't wait to read the book!

Tony and Rett said...

April...thank you for sharing this story. It has the makings of a good novel where Jesus comes shining through.

You loved the least and will be rewarded (and OH MY...the reward is so much better than a pie safe!)

So glad you finished it...and I'll keep Russell and their family in my prayers.

Sharla said...

Ok took my breath away! I need to go back and read it again, it's beautiful!

Love ya!!

FinsUp said...

I am so glad Barbara didn't benefit from this. And I am glad you finished the story. Thank you!

emma said...

April, AWESOME! I was going to write the other day and say yes to the book idea but to definitely finish the blog. I am thankful that your mom and you were able to get some things. When Mike and I were "Old Man Tom" 's care givers and executors, after cleaning up the same disgusting things you spoke of and 7 months of trying to find people we ended up with $2500. But just like you said- we were not in it for the money either. And we would do it all over again. It was great how my girls didn't know that Old Tom was any different than anyone else.
Love you and yours!! Steph

Chubby Baby Designs said...

You made my day! I need to keep the picture of the description of heaven in my mind and bring it to my thoughts more often, keeping an eternal perspective on life.
It's a BEAUTIFUL ( and sometimes ugly) are right, that's what God does, makes something ugly transform into beauty. Love it!

The Gang's Momma said...

Thank you for sharing the whole thing, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And for sharing it so honestly from your heart. It was a great read, but more than that, it was a great reminder that there are folks all around me every day who are lonely, broken, and lost. Thanks for that.

I kinda guessed that's where you were going with it all (since I've been getting to 'know' you for almost a year now via your blogs. But it was completely captivating to actually read it all and see how it played out. What an honor to your Father both you and your mom were through it all.

And you know what, I probably would read a novel like this. Especially if you use your real name when you publish it :)

Hugs, my bloggy friend. You did good!