This week marks the one year anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of my sister, Rita. I can think of few, if any, more dedicated servants of Christ. I also struggle to think of anyone else I have known who lived her entire life as a practicing Christian, without any of the interruptions that we all seem to have, such as trying cigarettes as a teenager or dropping in and out of church attendance. I always teased her that she never had her “hood” stage. She truly was a “goody two shoes” her entire life, and I mean that as a sincere compliment!
My earliest memories of Rita are related to sharing a room with her for several years from the time I was a toddler. Considering she was seven years my senior, this seems surreal by today’s standards, but that’s just the way it was in those days for a family with six kids. Poor Rita. Can you imagine being a teenaged girl and entertaining your friends in a room littered with balls, toy guns, Matchbox Cars and G.I. Joes? She used to relate a story about me that I can’t really discuss in detail in a church blog. Let’s just say it involved drinking lots of water, an occupied bathroom and our bedroom trash can. It’s no wonder she graduated from high school a year early and went away to college at age 17!
Rita’s life revolved around her relationship with Christ. Her undergraduate degree was a Bible degree attained from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Remarkably, in her late 40’s after sending both of her children off to college, she picked up and moved hundreds of miles from her home in North Carolina to earn her master’s degree, also Bible-related, from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. I mean, who does that? In between, she was always highly involved in some type of church ministry. For the last few years of her life, even though she had chronic medical conditions that made it difficult to get out of bed every morning, she faithfully volunteered many hours a week at Two Hearts in Ashland, Kentucky, a facility dedicated to caring for young, unwed mothers.
Rita loved her two children, Tom and Jennifer, unconditionally. A single mother from the time they were about six and four, respectively, she did a wonderful job raising them in church and teaching them lasting Christian values. Both are now amazing adults with amazing spouses and amazing children.
Rita and her husband, David, were so good together, and so much in love. Married for the last 13 years of her life, they still acted like newlyweds. We should all be that way toward our spouses! I will never forget watching David’s utter heartbreak as Rita lay dying in her hospital bed.
But I believe I will remember Rita most as a doting grandmother. Of course, we all love our grandkids, but “Gram,” as Nathan, Abbey, Owen and Corbin called her, was absolutely CRAZY about those babies. She talked about them non-stop and was always trying to figure out a way to carve out some time to go visit them in their faraway cities.
I picture Rita in Heaven hanging out with her beloved savior Jesus in her new pain-free body, but still finding time for a nightly game of canasta with our mom and sister, Debbie, and our dad watching on. What a glorious reunion that must have been when Rita earned her reward last August 2. Until we meet again, Sis…
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).