Mile Marker 99
A Valentine's Story
This is my friend Mary's story
Rhonda checked the answering machine at home. She said, "Mary called, she said it wasn't urgent and I could call her when we got back from Alaska." It's probably about a trip", I said. Mary travels with us. In fact, eXtra Touch likes to take some matchmaking credit. Mary and her husband lost their first spouses. When there was only one seat left on the eXtra Touch bus, Mary sat down next to a past acquaintance, Dick, and the rest as they say, was history. Mary and Dick were so happy. A friend told Dick he needed to get a bigger face to contain that smile. Mary and her first husband did not have children. Mary not only loved being Dick's wife, she loved sharing his children and grandchildren. Then I got the text from our pastor. I'd served with Mary several times on our church board. Dick and Mary had been killed in a tragic auto accident. It was terrible, heartbreaking news. Mary had been a stalwart leader in our church and the greater church for over 50 years. It's impossible to estimate the impact Mary's leadership had in expanding the Kingdom of Christ. She was a strong, but compassionate leader who retained respect for, and maintained respect from, those who had opposing views. Everyone loved Mary. Surely, she had earned long life and happiness? After returning from Alaska we counted down the mileposts until we came to milepost 99, the site of the accident. At the time, it only made me feel worse. I'm not sure when or if Rhonda will ever come to delete Mary's message off the answering machine. The following Sunday we were at another church for a family event. The pastor knew of Mary and told the story of Horatio Spafford. Spafford lost his two year old son in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire ruined him financially. He sent his family on to Europe with plans to follow. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean the ship collided with another vessel, sank rapidly, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterward, Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife. As his ship passed the spot where his daughters had died, he was inspired to write the lyrics to the hymn "It is Well With My Soul". I'm told a first responder talked to Mary when she was still conscious. When asked, she said she was not in pain, and that she knew Jesus. The responder sang, "Jesus Loves Me" to Mary. Well done Mary. You have run in such a way so as to get the prize. You have finished the race, you have kept the faith. I'll be reminded of that each time we pass mile marker 99, and this time, it will be well with my soul.
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