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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Widow's Might

By Methel Jacobs with Scott Harrup
Dec. 15, 2013

People were drawn to my husband, Fred Jacobs. To his smile. His humor. His quiet wisdom. For his part, Fred remained largely unaware of his influence. I don’t think he realized just how many friends he had.

On Dec. 13 last year, a crowd of loved ones packed Fred’s funeral in Memphis, Tenn. They filled the pews in the large chapel and stood along the back wall. At the graveside, they encircled the canopy under which Fred was interred. For December, it was surprisingly warm. Like spring. The sun, dipping near the tree line, turned the scene to gold as a bugler played “Taps.”

Fred never experienced combat while he was in uniform, but his early life was battle-scarred. It was the Eisenhower era. Memphis back then was a city of Southern gentility and Father Knows Best nuclear families. At least, that’s what we like to think today. But Fred’s home was shattered by violence and a broken marriage.

Fred’s mother, unable to bear further alcohol-induced abuse, left his father. Of the five children in the family, two older sisters were grown. Fred and younger brothers Donnie and Kim ranged in age from 11 years to 4 to just 18 months.

After the boys moved to the Assemblies of God Hillcrest Children’s Home in Hot Springs, Ark., Donnie and Kim were adopted. Fred returned to Memphis to live with a sister. In high school he moved to a boarding house, already independent beyond his years.

My own family endured its share of pain. I knew my dad loved me, my two older sisters, and our younger brother. But Daddy lost his best years to a spiritual struggle. He didn’t commit his life to Christ until we were grown.

Mother made all the difference. She took us to First Assembly in Memphis every Sunday. Practically every time the proverbial church doors were open. Church is where Fred and I grew close. I would sit in the choir and catch Fred’s eye, sometimes earning a flash of that smile.

We dated during high school as Fred’s family tragedy escalated. I remember the day Fred was called out of class to the school office. I joined him as he took the phone call from Pastor James Hamill.

“Your father,” Pastor Hamill said gently, but with complete candor, “has just shot and killed your mother.”

Fred’s father was sent to the penitentiary in Nashville. The ordeal would come to a heart-breaking closure of sorts in 1967 when Fred’s father took his own life the day he was supposed to be released from prison.

Fred and I married in January 1966. We had dated long-distance through my years at Evangel College in Springfield, Mo. We moved to California near the end of the decade so Fred could begin his studies at Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz. I taught at a Christian school.

Our lives took an unexpected turn in 1970 during a visit with family in Memphis. The trip home may have been a harbinger of the larger transition to come. We drove a Volkswagen Beetle cross-country with our toddler son, Chris, and our visiting niece and nephew, Venita and Del. That we also fit a TV set and a dog into that tiny car amazes me to this day.

We were getting ready to return to California three weeks later when Pastor Hamill invited me to become children’s director at First Assembly. Fred supported the idea and transferred to Memphis State University. He would serve as the church’s athletic director before starting two successful businesses during the 19 years I ministered as “Miss Methel” to First Assembly’s children.

Those were treasured years. Fred and I felt blessed to watch hundreds of young lives mature. Boys and girls became men and women and started families of their own. Fred, whether working long hours at construction sites or in his Peanut Shoppe, was the quiet foundation I could rely upon.

One mom I had known when she was just a girl wrote on my Facebook page the week Fred died: “Hugs and prayers to you Ms. Methel. When I was little, I loved to visit Fred at the Peanut Shoppe every Wednesday night after church and ride the horse outside for free. Now that I am older, I realize and appreciate him sharing you with all of us, all those years. What an awesome guy.”

Fred’s cancer was discovered in early 2012. It stormed into our lives in a season already threatening to overwhelm us. Our granddaughter had given birth while in an abusive relationship; the father nearly killed our great-grandson. Fred and I agreed we needed to seek custody of little A.J. Numerous court appearances followed, of which Fred was only strong enough for one.

Last Christmas, so soon after Fred died, A.J. and I enjoyed a quiet day with A.J.’s mom and then with my sisters and our families. I still half expected Fred to walk into the room. “Widow” felt foreign to my identity.

Fred’s final night with me, Dec. 9, played out in my mind. We had been sitting together in the living room looking out over the back acres and scattered fishing ponds of the small country home where we moved to spend our retirement years.

I had been rubbing Fred’s neck, trying to alleviate one of the raging headaches that crushed him during his final months of chemotherapy.

“I think I’ll head to bed,” I said softly. We had to be at the hospital by 5 the next morning. Fred was scheduled for the surgery from which he would never awaken.

As I stood and moved toward the hall, I heard his quiet, pain-filled voice behind me.

“I love you, sweetheart.”

I stopped and looked back at him.

For all of our years together, Fred’s favorite reply when I said, “I love you,” was a smiling “Me too!” and a high-five. We knew we had a good marriage. We loved each other deeply. We had been through a lot together. But Fred was never really verbal.

“Do you know what you just said to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “I meant to.”

He knew. He knew he was going. That was the greatest gift he could ever give me.

This Christmas, A.J. and I are growing together. With the help of our family. With the love of our nearby church, Heartsong. With the compassion of friends from multiple generations at First Assembly.

I’m a mom all over again — at 70. And I’m coming to terms with my identity as a widow.

Perhaps you have read of the impoverished widow in Jesus’ day who gave what the King James Version describes as two “mites” into the temple offering. Mark and Luke record that scene in their Gospels.

Jesus observed the widow and then commended her sacrifice to His disciples. “This poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford — she gave her all” (Mark 12:43,44, The Message).

Jesus understood something else He didn’t say that day. When the widow gave all she had, she was not left with nothing.

She still had Him.

That is what Christmas says to me. On the chill nights when I no longer see Fred bundled in his favorite chair. On the rare snowy day when his footprints fail to make a line to a nearby fishing pond.

Through this Christmas season, another without my life-mate, I still have my Savior.

I rest in His might.

METHEL JACOBS lives in Eads, Tenn.

SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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