If you read the blog then you know Gary and Ona, our friends in Atlanta. As you know Ona is in the last stages of cancer and has been moved to a Hospice Home in the Atlanta Area. She and Gary are able to be together, Gary has a bed in the room with Ona, the family is also able to be by their side as much as possible. All of the children are there walking with Gary and Ona through this difficult time in their lives. The update today from Jessica is as follows:
“Moms heart is, as many of you know, strong from years of running. She is in a “coma-like” state. One nurse told Dad last night that if nothing changes she could make it through the weekend. She is very peaceful. We continue to appreciate your prayers, they are definitely felt by our family.”
I am including a previous blog post here because so many of you have asked about Gary and Ona and so many have read and prayed for friends of ours. You are a true family that hurts and feels our pain even when you don’t know Gary and Ona.
John 12:24 (The Message)
24-25“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
Death truly is the Engine to Life
We had an awesome time in Atlanta visiting with our good friends Gary and Ona Smith. Wow, we packed a lot in but the point of the trip was to be with Gary, Ona, the extended family and just fellowship and enjoy each others company. As you know if you read the blog or know me through church, Ona has cancer and has been battling for several years to fight this disease.
When we arrived in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon and got settled in, Gary reminded me that the ING Marathon was this weekend and that Ona and he had ran the Half Marathon in 2008, did I want to run this weekend? Well of course with my love of running it was tempting but I have not been training so I didn’t know.
To make a long story short, we went to the Expo at the Georgia Dome on Friday and got registered and I was in. This is when the praying and moaning started. Moaning that I was out of shape and hadn’t been training and praying that I could at least finish in 3 hours. I knew I could finish in 3 hours, I can walk that fast.
Gary and Ona live near Piedmont Park so I went for a 3 mile run/walk/drag on Thursday evening in the park. I was very sore on Friday because I haven’t been training. This was just another thing for me to moan about, knowing that I have 13. 1 to do early Sunday morning. We were able to be with Gary and Ona’s two daughter’s and their oldest son during the weekend as well as their children and families and you will see some of the pictures of them here.
They have/had this great “Little Jumping Bean” place for children just around the block from Gary and Ona’s and we spent some time there letting Samuel and the grand-kids jump in these big blow up things. It is great, the kids can fall and still not get hurt. I think each one of them were stepped on several times but they didn’t get hurt and it was a lot of fun for the little ones. I say had because the place was closing down this weekend so we won’t have the convenience of it being so close by when we visit.
As Gary and I had the kids away jumping there was time for Ona and Misty as well as Jessica and Misty to have some good conversation and not have to run the kids around. With Samuel the running was constant because he wanted to climb the stairs. Gary, Justin, Samuel and I did the grocery shopping for our meals and we ate lots of “Skinny Cows” over the weekend. I didn’t know those things existed but I will be looking for them in Cana Virginia.
It is funny and amazing at the same time, Gary, Justin and I went to the Ga. Dome to register for the race and after looking for a parking spot where we didn’t have to pay $10 we pulled up to ask someone where a certain gate was and they directed us through the service entrance of the Dome and we drove right up to the door and didn’t pay any fees at all. While we were there Gary and I each bought a pair of running shoes and I left my debit card at the booth. Needless to say when we went to the grocery store I discovered the missing card and we had to go back to the Dome and believe it or not we received permission to go back through the service entrance to pick up the card. They did check us out this time to make sure were weren’t up to anything bad.
On Saturday evening we were blessed to prepare and have dinner with Chris, Amanda and Cole. Chris is Gary’s oldest son, we enjoyed preparing the meal together and then eating steak together. Ona is not allowed to have very much steak but she did get to enjoy it on Saturday night with the rest of us.
There are pictures here of the home that Gary and Ona live in, it is where Gary grew up with his mom, dad and siblings. Ona grew up on a street close by and they have been together for 41 years. When they found out that Ona had cancer they decided it was time to fix the home place up and enjoy it. What a beautiful place, inside and out. It is more like a work of art, more than just a house. The most awesome thing is that anywhere Gary and Ona live it is a place where everyone is welcome. For the past 10 years I have been in their home many times and I have always been made to feel like it was my home away from home.
This trip was not unlike the many others that I have enjoyed at Gary and Ona’s. I have been many times before I was married and several times since Misty and I were married, along with Samuel, Kyle and at times other friends have been with us. Gary and Ona love to be active, we ran in the Atlanta Peach Tree Road Race together in 2007. In July 2008 Ona was not able to run the 6.2 miles and I ran in Ona’s place along with Gary. We have often walked around Stone Mountain Park together as well as taking walks with Skippy the family dog in Piedmont Park. We all also like to eat so we have enjoyed places like the Speghatti Factory in Atlanta, the famous Varsity Restaurant and of course we have been to Krispy Kreme many times.
There are so many great memories and this trip was one of the best in it’s own way. Ona is not able to get out and run with us anymore, we ate all our meals together at home because Ona is not able to run around town anymore but the thing we did was just enjoy each others company. Gary and Ona have taught us so much and we will be forever grateful for their friendship.
Ona’s time on this earth is beginning to come to a close but we will never say goodbye. We will never say goodbye because Ona will leave this body and immediately be with Jesus and one day and it will not be that long for any of us, we will be with Jesus and Ona again.
When a loved one leaves us in this world there is an emptiness, a void that no one can fill. However, as in this world, when a person leaves to go on a journey, as they go out of sight, we say, there they go!
We don’t question that their departure means they will be arriving at some other place in a short time. When they arrive at that other place they say, here they come! Likewise when someone we love who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior leaves this world, we say they have departed! But, in heaven, they say, here they come! They are absent from these frail bodies and they are absent from us but they are present with Our Lord.
Death causes us loss and grief to be sure but death is overrated for the Christian. Death is not our enemy but our friend. Death is the gateway that leads to Eternal Life. Death is the key that opens the gate and relieves us from this pain and suffering, this groaning to be with Our Creator. Death is the gateway to our being in the actual Eternal Presence of our Living Savior. Death is the gate into a land where there is no sorrow, no more separation, no more pain and no more tears. It is a place not made with human hands but with Our Creator’s Hands.
No eye here has ever seen nor can our minds imagine the things that Our Lord has for us when we meet with him in that Eternal Home.
This is not goodbye, this is only the beginning. This is simply a time that we can rest assured that we will see each other again. This is a time where we say everything that needs to be said but we rest assured on the promise of Our God that we will be together again.
Calvin Miller says, “Death is not the terror that we suppose. Jesus dying the most excruciating way, He was not dead for long. In the chronicles of God, no death has ever lasted long. We fall asleep on this cruel planet and wake up a world away. It is amazing just how often the New Testament speaks of death as sleep.
What is death at most?
It is a journey for a season.
A sleep longer than usual.
If thou fearest death, thou shouldst also fear sleep.
P.S. I had several friends encourage me that I would do much better than 3hours in the half marathon because I was running in honor of Ona. I finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes. To God be all Glory!
You may also want to sign Ona’s guest book. Eventhough you may not know them here, you will meet them in heaven one day soon.