Betty Jennings was born on September 13, 1924 into a loving family that consisted of her mother, her father, and her brother Wes. Somewhat shy by nature and frail physically, Betty stayed close to her home and her parents, rarely venturing very far away, caring for her parents as their health declined, dealing with the ravages of cancer. At her job as a clerk for Hardware Mutual Insurance Betty was an efficient and reliable worker. It appeared that she would spend her life alone, never knowing the delights of romance, when, suddenly, unexpectedly, in her 40s, in the midst of what was for her an unusual adventure, taking a vacation to Hawaii of all places, she met Guy, a solitary bachelor also on vacation. And nothing was quite the same again.
When Betty spoke of Guy there was always such joy in her voice. He was her knight in shining armor. He treated Betty with such tenderness, always the gentleman. How Betty would glow when she described Christmases spent with Guy, who loved celebrating the traditions together, who took such care in gift giving. In Betty’s mind Guy was a model for how life should be lived. He lived so honorably, with such gratitude. He took care in the little things. He insisted they always say grace together before meals, thanking their maker for their daily bread. Guy never dwelled on the negative, always on the positive, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.
As Betty had cared for her parents, so now she cared for Guy until his death. Their years together on this earth weren’t long; but the old saying is true: it is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. Betty knew what it was to love deeply and be loved deeply, and she never forgot what it felt like.
Betty spent the last 27 years of her life missing Guy. But the memories of what they had shared would warm her heart. When I would visit with her, we would speak together of how she looked forward to one day seeing him again. Her eyes would shine.
Betty was kind of a loner, not at ease in crowds. She apologized often to me for not making it to church more often. In my experience Betty did best one on one, that when you spoke to her, she was fully present, appreciative, open hearted. She could be very funny at times. She made me laugh. I remember the colorful hats she wore, and the bird took care of. She was always really grateful when we prayed together.
Before she gave up her home, she would tell me how whenever she ventured out in her car, she would first sit in silently behind the wheel for a few moments before putting the car in gear and pray. She was frail and she knew it and she knew she needed God to be with her to bring her safely to her destination. She wondered if anyone saw her they would think she was crazy. I assured her she wasn’t crazy; praying before she drove was the absolute right thing to do.
So this past Thursday Betty made her final trip, and God surely was with her on this journey as well. And O, the joy of this final journey. A new body, one that could stand upright and strong, no longer bent over. Ears that could hear and eyes that could see without straining. And O, the homecoming party that was waiting for her as she passed through the veil. Together again with her beloved mother and her father, and sweet Guy, meeting her again as her knight in shining armor. And the master of ceremonies: Jesus, who wipes away all the tears and makes all things new.
In this world, Betty knew a lot of pain: physical pain, her body was never strong, though her spirit certainly was, and as the years passed the body became harder and harder to inhabit. Over the years she had watched the people most precious to her die painful deaths, her heart breaking time and again. When her body and mind deteriorated, she was forced to give up the home she loved.
She knew a lot of pain, but what Paul the Apostle says I believe to be true: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Remembering the way Betty loved Guy, I am tickled by the image from Revelations: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”