I left you hanging at 3 p.m. on Sunday. I guess I should backtrack and say that on Saturday afternoon I had a chance to glance at my email and see if there were any updates on our friend Kristi. (*There's an update at the bottom of this post.) It was then that I saw an email from Janelle that said "Ileeta's funeral." Oh man. Then I remembered seeing an email in my inbox from Janelle that said "Ileeta" sometime in the last 48 hours. Somehow it got marked as read even though I never read it. Weird how that happened. Curtis even knew what had happened on Thursday night, but chose not to tell me because I was already a mess. Maybe he was afraid I wouldn't go on my trip.
The emails said that our friend and former co-worker from FBC Irving, Ileeta Watson, had gone home to be with Jesus late Thursday night. Ileeta was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer over five years ago. When our pastor first introduced us to her after we moved to Irving, he boldly said, "Ileeta is a miracle." Indeed. She'd recently had to battle the cancer again but was doing well. I got to visit with her briefly when she was here in Houston getting treatment at MD Anderson. Janelle (one of Ileeta's fellow church secretaries) had come to town to be with her and Jackson and I met them for cupcakes. I'm so glad I had that chance to see her one last time.
Ileeta was strikingly beautiful on the outside and abounded with love and kindness on the inside. She had many tough trials during the last several years, but she clung to Christ. Her story is not mine to tell, but the Lord was glorified in her life and in her death. In fact, I shared with my mom on Friday night that I was really struggling to pray in faith for my friend Kristi. It was like I didn't want to pump myself up to believe God if He was going to disappoint me. My heart was already broken. I know that's not a great thing to admit, but such was the state of my heart. Then when I heard about God's AMAZING faithfulness to Ileeta over the past few months, working miracle upon miracle on her behalf in His sovereign timing, my faith was given a huge boost. Now I can pray sincerely again for what seems impossible.
Please pray for Ileeta's precious family. She has two daughters in their twenties and three little grandsons. I rejoice that Ileeta is with her Savior but my heart is so sad that her daughters will miss her for a lifetime. There's just never a good time to say goodbye to your mom, is there?
Mom dropped me off at my house at 3 p.m. on Sunday and Curt, Jackson, and I were on the road by 4. Sunni and her family were so gracious to let us crash in on them that night. By the time we got to the door, Jackson was squealing and laughing because he was so excited to see his friend Ava. I nearly fell over when I heard her talk. She was like a 6-year-old in a petite 2-year-old's frame! She was so precious, especially in her mermaid costume that she had on from their church's fall festival. We stayed up until midnight catching up with Sunni and Xavier. They are so much fun.
The next morning we dropped off Jackson at Janelle's mom's house and he got to spend the day with Ella. Janelle's mama was so generous to keep him. I think our trip was the happiest 24 hours of Jackson's life. I got to see some pictures of his time with Ella and it was one huge smile after another.
Ileeta's funeral was absolutely wonderful. She was a lifetime member of the church and a beloved member of the choir. The whole choir was there to sing her favorite songs. She had a very close group of girlfriends (who were all with her when she passed away) and several of their husbands shared stories about Ileeta's life. I thought that was really special. Pastor John also spoke and he shared that when he asked his young daughter Hannah to tell him something she loved about Ileeta, Hannah said "Her beautiful hair." She did have the most lovely hair! She reminded me so much of my mom in the way she was always so pretty and put together. I also found out that she used to teach aerobics at the church, which my mom did for 12 years.
After the graveside service, Ileeta's eldest daughter introduced herself to me and shared that she and her mom had been doing The Patriarchs study together this fall. She shared that, like Abraham, she knew her mother "had believed God and it was credited to (her) as righteousness." Yes. Amen. Thank you, Ileeta, for leaving a heritage for your daughters and for the younger women in your realm of influence of believing God and persevering until He called you to a better country.
God gave us the sweet gift of getting to have lunch with a bunch of our First Irving friends before we headed back home. Ileeta and Janelle's husband, Heath, both worked at a really nice steak restaurant in town. Heath hosted all of us at the restaurant and we got to fellowship there together. I wish it had been under different circumstances, but what a joy to get to visit with some of our favorite people in the world. Truly, if we get to have any treasures here on this earth, they are the people we do life with.
*I got an update from Amy today about Kristi. She had her first treatment with no reaction so far and she gets to go home to her mom's house! Her whole family will be staying there. She will be in bed, but they will all be together. Praise God. Pray for peace in that wonderfully full home and for continued healing of Kristi's c-section wound. The cancer medicine is causing it to heal slowly. Amy said she was amazed by all of your comments and connections from my previous post. Thank you so much for praying!