Each child of God, and we are all His children, has a story and part of my own story was intermingled with my childhood friend Denise Ann. We played together, laughed together and fought like siblings. Mostly, she shared her parents with me, without jealousy, and in the deepest sense of love. She joined our Lord and Savior this December. I’ve been thinking of some of the times we shared as children and wanted to share a few.
Summers in Junction
Before Fredericksburg was anything and a family with a motor home was a big deal, we would head out for the deer lease in the Winnebago loaded with good eats, some adults and a bunch of kids. As we rolled along the highway, we played dominoes, black jack and pitch with nickels and dimes. Denise’s brother would aggravate us and we would antagonize him by ganging up to tattle or trick him into losing in a card game. We were about seven or eight, but Denise seemed so much more mature than me and took on the role of big sister.
There was a natural spring on the land in Junction that bubbled into a cool pool for swimming. The water was clear and soothing and out in the middle was an ancient boulder where the water was so deep the bottom was no where to be seen. Somehow we made it over and stood like Jane of the jungle on the top of the rock. I would never jump off into the wild blue yonder on my own and had no plans of doing so that day. Denise thought otherwise. She pushed me off and I swam for dear life to get to the shallow part. I was furious as she laughed when I asked her what she would have done if I had drowned. Quite calmly, and completely in charge, she replied in her matter of fact tone, ” I would have saved you.” So she would have and did many times after. I became a strong swimmer that summer. We had many summers in water there, on the Brazos, at the SPJST pool and other places I can’t recall the names of and we always stuck together. I hope Denise swims in a pool of crisp cool water again with the heavens beaming around her.
From the dune buggy, tractor, four wheeler and her first pick up, we ran the pasture and the river fearlessly. It was a child’s paradise on the weekend and holidays and I loved being included on those trips. We attended our first dance at Silver Wings with her older cousins and aunts. We hounded the sand barges of the Brazos with her cousins and uncles. There were picnics, card games, church bazaars, fishing and cooking, family and friends who popped in to visit at the house on the hill. It was the best of times with sweet memories ingrained in me of simpler days.
Denise’s Polish grandma, called Busia and pronounced Busha, had tiny chickens with tiny eggs that we collected. Busia’s house was down the hill from the weekend house and we visited every time to collect those eggs and see what was cooking in her kitchen. She was my first memory of a real grandma and I loved her country house especially the kitchen where she rolled out and cut wide egg noodles on her table. I can still see her in my mind with her rolling-pin stooped over the table. The kitchen smelled amazing and the soup that she served with those egg noodles compare to nothing I have had since. Busia made more than just good food. She crocheted adorable poodles around Ivory soap for Denise and then me. The last time we were there, we hung freshly starched curtains in that kitchen. I hope Denise is in her grandma’s heavenly kitchen enjoying those egg noodles looking out the window at emerald green pastures.
Only a daddy’s girl could talk her father into buying a white horse with blue eyes. Denise did just that and that crazy white horse was named “Spook”. We rode him in a fenced pasture and her daddy never let us out of his sight. Then there was the sparkly red bass boat named, “My Dee Dee”, Denise’s nickname from her daddy. We spent summers on Houston County Lake while he drove “My Dee Dee”, circling and circling so that everyone could have a turn at trying to ski. We night fished for crappie on Somerville and he never complained about prissy little girls being in the way. He kept all the gadgets and motors running on the various mechanical toys. He watched over us when things were a little dangerous never mentioning it to a doting mom. He gave us our freedom and taught us how to read the directions before assembly. One simple rule that could be applied to most things in life. Denise had his common sense and mechanical ability. Both would come in handy when we got into trouble or helped someone else out of a jam like the times she would tell me to get out and lock the hub so we could use her four-wheel drive pick up to pull someone out of a ditch. Denise was a daddy’s girl. Only a little girl, confident in her daddy’s love, could share him with me on my wedding day when he walked me down the aisle and gave me away. I hope Denise is in the presence of God knowing the same, yet greater love, of her Heavenly Father.
Waking up to a warm wash cloth was such a loving and novel thing to me when I was with Denise. Her momma did that everyday of Denise’s childhood with love and tenderness to wake her children and I was privileged to be included. She chaperoned, baked, cleaned, washed, ironed, decorated, volunteered, chauffeured, waited up nights and prayed. There was always a carload of extra kids to take to school and snacks for too many after school. She is my best memory of a mom and I would pull those memories from childhood many times when I was able to stay at home with my children. Denise never minded sharing her mother or it never showed. Her momma could love more than just her own, and Denise loved others in the same way, pulling friends into her inner circle even just for a meal when they most needed a mother’s love. Both mother and daughter took the simple art of homemaking and cooking and provided a ministry of comfort and fellowship to others. Over the years, there have been wedding cakes, cookies, roasts, barbeques, salsa and the most amazing homegrown pickles. I hope Denise is cooking a feast in Heaven for all of her loved ones already there and she can hear all of her momma’s prayers while she works.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
To believe in everlasting life is to worship God Himself. It is the promise to be reunited with our loved ones. It is part of our faith, written in His Word, and the longing of believers to be in Heaven. Those of us left behind must remain here holding on to this promise ourselves, working out our faith, and finishing a good race and overcoming this world to enter into His presence. This is a free gift offered to us through Jesus Christ with no string, no requirement other than to believe. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6. I know Denise knows Jesus who is Our Hope.