Monday, May 3, 2010

Bob's words on Life and Love

One of the things that I did after Bob’s memorial service was spend time in the basement of my sister’s house, digging through our many “memory” boxes. I took some of what was there back to Ghana – our family movies, many of the pictures from our “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12), and the letters Bob wrote me over the years. I have been allowing myself to be immersed in the past, maybe in a way of avoiding the future. So I thought I would let Bob write this blog by sharing an excerpt of one of his letters as well as a brief family video clip.

[I do feel like I need to share with you the internal struggle I have with sharing personal information in such a public forum. There are two reasons that I have determined for my motivation to do this: one, it helps me to share my pain – there’s a part of me that wants the world to know what I am missing, what you are missing, what the world is missing. The second, more altruistic reason (since the first is pretty self-indulgent), is that I have heard from many people since Bob’s passing that this event has caused them to draw closer to their spouse, examine their preparedness if this were to happen to them, and/or examine their relationship to God and their calling. So my prayer is that this sharing will be a blessing to someone in a way that enriches their life, their love, and their relationship to their Creator and Savior.]

Since much of our relationship was long distance prior to our engagement, we wrote many letters – his letters were often more than ten pages. This letter was written almost exactly twenty years ago, a month before Bob proposed to me in June of 1990. This excerpt was found on page six, as he pondered our future together:

“We are going to laugh and play and work and think and rest in each other’s arms when the day is done.

We will walk and talk and smile and fight and touch and lose our minds together.

We will hold hands and dishes and children and diet Cokes and diet Pepsis and each other’s hearts. And we will model love to everyone who touches our lives.

And someday, when I am eighty-five and you are seventy-one, and the end of our lives is just ahead, we will still be holding hands. I will know you and you will know me, and we will look into tired eyes, still full of joy and longing, and we will be so glad, so supremely happy we walked this path together.

I never want to say goodbye to you, Renita.

I want to be clumsy with you, clunky with you and klutzy with you. I want to be corny (like now) with you and embarrass myself with you.

I want you to see me fully, as I am without attempts to impress. I want us to share – not the facades not the attempts to be what we are not and never could be – no, I want us to share what we are, I want us to be ourselves with each other, and still love each other deeply and passionately. And oh! How healing that will be!

We are going to do it right. We are going to find out what love means, and we are going to do it right.

We are going to test the promises of God with each other, and with His help, we are going to prove that love is the greatest gift of all.

Am I being pie in the sky? Or am I letting my idealism run wild without check? No! For it is in insecurity and doubt, in looking for problems that failure exists! It is through confident faith in God and each other, in not allowing doubt to sidetrack us that “doing it right” finds full flower!

So I have a vision for us. We will love each other, dearly and deeply and kindly and warmly and passionately and truly. We will do it right.

Not because we can. Because with God’s help, we know we can.

No! We will do it right because we will to do it right. When we go into this, we must go into it absolutely committed to being the very best we can be for each other. We must go into this without self doubt nagging at us. Our insecurities and doubts will always exist, but they must not set the tone for our relationship. Our love and our faith and our values and our vision for perfection must set the tone!

You with me?

If so, I have something to say to you. And something to ask you.

But not right now.

I don’t know if we "did it right." We did work hard at not letting our insecurities and doubts set the tone for the relationship – but we didn’t always succeed. We seriously questioned on a number of occasions whether or not we had lost our minds – or at least whether others thought we did. We worked hard at letting our love, our faith, our values, and our vision set the tone – but there again, we didn’t always succeed. Bob had a vision for us and he courageously pursued it. We didn’t make it to 85 years old and 71 years old. Only God knows why. Bob got his wish in not saying good-bye. I wish I could say the same.

I now have to have a new vision and the words from the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” keep going through my head:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light

Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I, Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are

High King of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision O Ruler of all

And now a few words from Bob in 1995, on his 41st birthday, reflecting on life and death. [For those of you with kids, you should be used to listening through a child fussing - for those of you not used to it, it may be more difficult to hear:-).]

[If you who were not able to attend Bob’s Memorial Service and would like to hear it, an audio recording is available at the Madison Square Church website at (along with other great messages!); click on resources, then on sermon recordings, then find 2010-03-30, Bob Reed Memorial Service.]


Anonymous said...

I still think of all of you with love in my heart, even though I don't know you all real well. Shortly after Bob's homegoing, a friend of mine from Madison also passed away at age 54. I miss her too, very much. I told her family that she was in Heaven with Bob and they liked that thought (Susan VanderWeele, don't know if you knew her or not).

I have both Bob's and Susan's pictures near my computer because both of them were inspirations to me.

Still praying for all of you. Thank you for sharing the video and the letter, I have tears in my eyes... Tears are healing though.

In Him,
Marti Birdsall
Member @ Madison Square
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Anonymous said...

Dear Renita~ Thank you. As I read Bob's letter to you I could hear him saying all those wonderful, honest, transparent things... It made me think of my 22 year old son, Travis, who is in a dating relationship and "sorting things out for the future". It made me wish that he could know and talk with Bob, so, I have sent it on to him and will let Bob talk with him thru your letter. Thank you for being willing to share it with us.

As I've read your blog over the past few years I've loved "getting to know you" and seeing yours and Bob's relationship, as well as that with your beautiful kids. Brian and I have a wonderful relationship.... 30 yrs now that have FLOWN by, and a son and daughter. It's always encouraging to see those who are willing to put God's grace and the effort and sacrifice into a good marriage and see the incredible results of it. I'm thankful that you and Bob have had that.

Bless you, Dear One. Keeping you before the Throne of the One who loves you. Lori Lee

Whitney said...

Thank you, Renita, for your courage, and commitment to share these things. I imagine it's hard, in a way, to make your most tender experiences public, but... please know that it touches in a way that you couldn't possibly orchestrate consciously. What you share is used by God in our lives.
Thank you for sharing that video. I haven't seen Bob animated in many, many years, and it was a joy. Such a reminder of why I always thought he was a pretty special dude.

Prayers your way.


Anonymous said...

Renita, I am so sorry for your loss. I learned of Bob's death and I was shocked. I was selfish enought to start questioning why God would take people who are so willing to work for Him when so many others won't. But then I thought, that regardless of whoever feels a loss it cannot be anything compared to what you and the kids must have felt and will continue to feel for some time. I will pray for you all as I know that grief can be unpredictably difficult.
I want to thank you and Bob for all you did in Grand Rapids and for the way that you both stood for what you believed even when it was not traditionally acceptable. I still remember the pork roast that Bob made when I came to your house for dinner. I don't think I have ever had a pork roast as good since then!

We are praying for you.

La Terra Comer
910 Union Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507