“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
Nola Havins finished her race earlier this afternoon. And she ran well. Very well.
A surprise of a brain hemorrhage took Nola down Sunday night a week ago. Nola and Derrell had just returned home from their small group where they and some of their oldest and dearest friends had been praying through Psalm 23. The dinner was great, the fellowship was sweet, and the time spent meditating and listening to the voice of God through the hearts of their friends had been inspirational. As soon as they got into the house, Nola bent down to pick a couple of towels off the laundry room floor. And that was it. Just like that. No warning. No signals or signs. No symptoms. No nothing. One minute Derrell and Nola are enjoying a really great end to a really wonderful day together like so many they’ve shared during their 57 years of marriage. And the next minute, Nola has left for the next life without even saying “bye.”
Whew! Tough pill to swallow. Very rough week. For everybody.
Derrell and Nola are like grandparents to our three girls. Valerie talks about her boyfriend with Nola. Carley hugs and high-fives Derrell and exchanges smart aleck comments with him. Whitney hugs them both like she’s known them for 20 years. Derrell and Nola are just those kinds of people. Nola is 76-years-old and defies you to add the word “former” to Rodeo Beauty Queen when you describe her. Just a strikingly gorgeous woman. Inside and out. Sweet as can be and just as healthy and active as anybody half her age. At Family Camp two years ago, there was Nola, strapped in to the zip line and ready to jump off the platform 45-feet in the air. Always encouraging Carrie-Anne and me. Taking us out for burgers at Buns Over Texas or catfish at that all-you-can-eat place in Umbarger. Always talking to our girls. And always loving each other with a mutual affection and faithfulness that rubbed off on anybody who came near.
She goes down Sunday night and it’s a shock to everybody.
She’s in a coma for nine days, until 1:00 this afternoon and it’s just hard. Really hard. For everybody.
But Nola belongs to our God. She is his. He created her and he loves her. She is his daughter and he is her Father. And he is faithful to her, to bring her into his glorious face-to-face presence forever. We mourn today with Derrell and the kids and grandkids and everybody else in their super-huge, well-connected, and really fun family. We grieve. And we pledge to take care of Derrell; to love him and support him through very difficult times ahead. We vow today to remember in Nola the ways her gentleness and grace reflect the glory of our Lord. We encourage the family by reminding them of how much Nola touched our lives.
And we hug and kiss our husbands and wives tonight. We tell them how much we love them.
If there’s one thing Derrell has told me every single day — sometimes twice or three times a day — since that Sunday, he’s ordered me to tell Carrie-Anne how much I love her. “Promise me,” Derrell has said every day, “that tonight you’ll tell her. Because I didn’t get that chance with Nola.”
So, tonight, in honor of Derrell and Nola and their 57 years of marriage that truly reflected the glory of God and served as a powerful testimony to our Lord’s love for his people, tell your wife tonight how much you love her and how much she blesses your life. Tell your husband how much he means to you and how you can’t imagine living without him.
God bless all the Havins. And God receive sweet Nola into your faithful arms.