Friday, May 11, 2012


***Yes, I did take a week off from continuing this commentary on recent events in my life. It seems so much has happened so quickly that I am frankly intimidated by the task of trying to capture all the individual events and emotions which have packed the past two weeks.

***Let me begin with a brief status report on my own condition to date. At six weeks post-surgery, I saw the surgeon who seemed pleased with my progress and his handiwork. I am still having a few issues with the healing of my sternum which continues to “click” along the lower third of my incision where the right and left meet but have not yet grown back together. It’s a bit eerie, but it doesn’t hurt; it does remind me that I am still healing and should not overdo the physical activity, like yardwork and heavy lifting. Going solo now for just over a week since my brother returned to California, I am working out a routine to cover laundry, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping, and the other components of housework. I haven’t disturbed much of the dust yet, remembering Betty always ask folk to not be concerned since she was collecting it.

***My biggest problem continues to be the pain in the middle of my back. How I wish it would just go away! This was caused in the rear end collision just before my open heart surgery. (The car was totaled, and the pay-off will be miserly.) I’ve seen my primary physician twice now and do have pain meds and muscle relaxants, and he has referred me to a physical therapist. When we solve the problem of who should be billed, I will see what relief that medical mode can offer. For now, I take the pills at bedtime and do sleep well (mostly). During the day, however, I don’t take them because they make me really groggy. By afternoon, I can hardly wait for bedtime again.

***Out of all the recent events I have to chronicle, I feel most of my readers would like for me to focus on the Memorial for Betty which was held on the 28th of April. Family was at the building early and everything seemed ready as people began to gather. Signing the Guest Book was a bit of a bottleneck, but there was a little time to visit with folk, which was special, particularly the opportunity to thank the many who came from out-of-town for their effort to attend. So much was going on and I received many individual expressions of regret and stories about Betty and her kindnesses or thoughtful deeds. To avoid a lengthy entry, I am going to concentrate on the Memorial itself and the order of events as listed in the hand-out everyone received. Patty Slack, our second child, designed and prepared and printed this lovely bi-fold program with Betty’s picture and vital information on the cover page. The photo was taken last Thanksgiving, and can be seen at the beginning of the second song on Youtube if you enter this title: “Five People Become Fifteen”. Inside the program is a beautifully composed, brief biography of her life and accomplishments, and as a gift to each person who came, the program included a small packet of Forget-Me-Not flower seeds which Patty had obtained and for which Dana had made tiny little individual packets that were attached beside the directions to grow them.

***The start of the service was delayed a bit as the crowds “signed in” and found their seats. Edwin Slack ((Vancouver), our Son-in-law, served as moderator, welcoming everyone and setting a sweet tone for the occasion. Geoffrey Wyatt (Juneau) our third child led a select group of carefully selected songs each introduced by a note of explanation. “Soon, and Very soon” was chosen because of Betty’s awareness that she would not live long with her cancer. She and a dear friend, Kay Vinsonhaler who also had terminal cancer would tell each other at every meeting, “We are going to see the King” someday. And it became a ritual. As attendance at church became more difficult for both ladies, that reminder soon evolved into just the song title, “Soon and Very Soon”. In the last two or three times they saw one another and to assure each another of their confidence in going to heaven, the greeting became the single word, “Soon” and a final hug.!! (Kay died first just one week before Betty.) The second song was one of Betty’s many favorites: “If We Never Meet Again (This Side of Heaven)” and honored her faith in her destination. Known to generations of kids as “Miss Betty” and to her own grandchildren as “Memaw” the third song “This Little Light of Mine” expresses her love of teaching kids and of living a Light-filled Life herself. And to conclude this set of songs, Geoffrey chose “I’ll Fly Away”, another favorite about departing this world for eternity in heaven.

***Ron Roberts led a prayer full of thanksgivings for Betty’s example. When we first met Ron and Joanne in Juneau over four decades ago we had no idea how close we would all become nor for how long. Jo was Betty’s “Very, Very, Best Friend in the Whole, Wide, Wide World.” until she died just a year and two weeks before Betty.

***In another example of family cooperation and coordination, the eulogy which was next in order was primarily written by daughter Patty but delivered eloquently through tears and laughter by David Wyatt, our firstborn. The stories and events and facts and secrets revealed in a wonderful and warm way the lovely personality and sweet, gentle spirit which Betty shared throughout life with family, friends, and multitudes of others in the church, neighborhoods, workplace, and community. Some of the stories were about Betty’s own childhood but those soon merged into tales relating to her meeting and marrying me. (Don’t believe everything you may have heard!) David related how we ended up in Alaska instead of moving to Japan as missionaries. He detailed her favorite Alaskan activities, the coming of our own children, and a bit about her professional career. At times David inserted personal memories and explanations which made this report even more precious. The later part of his talk concerned the move to Vancouver, the diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson’s Disease and how she coped with that illness by challenging it with every resource at hand and participating in many medical studies searching for a cure. He included a brief accounting of her most passionate project: research into the life of an Alaskan Pioneer woman, Jessie Fox Mather. She self-published “Jessie” in 2006 and it is truly a wonderful book. For his conclusion David related the coming on of Betty’s cancer and explained her decision to decline chemotherapy treatments, preferring to die from cancer rather than from the lingering effects of Parkinsons. Her choice of Philippians 1:18-21 helps explain her decision. Her greatest honors were her children, both the natural ones and the ones she unofficially adopted wherever we lived for over forty-five years. Betty was a most generous and giving person. Even her final gift of donating her brain to Parkinsons research is typical of how she shared her things, her faith, her love and her life with all of those who were fortunate enough to be within her sphere of influence.

***David also prepared a video from many photographs of Betty’s life and this was shown to the assembly which may have numbered nearly two hundred friends who had come to the Memorial Service. You can view these pictures on Patty's blog at

***After telling how he met Betty and learned about her protective, motherly nature after a date with Patty was overly long, Edwin Slack delivered a short spiritual message which pointed out how all of God’s children live with one foot in this world and the other foot in heaven. When, eventually, one passes completely (both feet) into heaven that passage is a time for joy and gladness. Even though we grieve our sense of loss, crossing over into God’s presence is what has been hoped for and waited for, and we can be glad for the departed one.

***Within minutes of Betty’s death on March 2nd, Geoffrey was singing “Blessed Assurance” to his mother, a favorite song we had all sung together many times. Curiously, the same song was sung in morning worship two days later, not only in Vancouver, but also in Juneau, Alaska, and almost at the same hour. There was no planning for this; it was just a another heavenly blessing. Geoffrey told about this before leading the song again in the Memorial.

***Gene Cash, whom we had met on our first Sunday in Vancouver, and whom had become a dear friend, led a special prayer for our comfort and for commending Betty into God’s care.

***Finally, Betty’s grandchildren, using the format of ”Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” named one-by-one dozens of “favorite things” Grandma Betty loved. They included items like: Forget-me-nots, hosting foreign guests, singing from the old hymnal, sharing good books, warm socks, beachcombing, pillow talk, playing cards with friends, a good bargain, deep-fried halibut, her Eddie Bauer goose-down pillow, reading to her grandkids, secret gift-giving, traveling with Papa, pussy willows, and treasuring her army of friends. Oh, and Ice Cream, especially Ice Cream. In fact she specifically asked that we conclude her Memorial with a shared Ice Cream Social, which we did immediately in the lobby for everyone who attended.

***This was a day of many emotions and sharing them all at once with so many others who loved and admired her was both a delight and an appropriate way to remember a wonderful Christian woman to whom I had the honor to be married for forty-eight years and eight days. We had been discussing what to do on our fiftieth anniversary; when the end came sooner, the glass was way more than half full of uncountable blessings and precious memories, and many words of assurance and thanksgivings she spoke in the last days as we talked together of the years of our marriage and the multitude of friends with which we had been blessed. I am glad so many were able to be a part of remembering Betty’s life and praising God for the good influence it had on us.


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