Monday, August 11, 2014

Honoring Lynn Erskine

 I never will have the privilege of meeting Lynn Erskine in person on this side of heaven.  That doesn't mean I haven't gotten to know Lynn at least a little bit though.  I've found that people love to comment on Lynn's happy energy, quirky quick wit, excellent musical performance, and godly wisdom beyond his years.  His enthusiasm and quick drawing "Praise the Lord" seemed to cause people to question his authenticity, yet Lynn convinced people quickly enough of his exuberance and optimism by his consistent and authentic way of living.  That is the Lynn I have heard about as people tell me who he was.

I'm not claiming to have all the insider information on knowing Lynn, but I'm sure there are a decent amount of people in my same position that never met Lynn Erskine but would be curious to know what kind of man he was.  This is what I've found.

A lay member at Emmanuel Baptist was telling me she never forgot this conversation below that I'm paraphrasing.  I asked Lynn once, "Why does it feel like us Christians stray off the path on the way to the cross so much?"  Lynn responded, "You aren't veering or straying off the path but stumbling upon obstacles that are a part of the path instead.  Maybe there are parts to climb over or maneuver around at times and you actually aren't veering off the path at all."
 Lynn was a part of the music and missions where he served as a pastor.  Running was a growing passion towards the end of Lynn's life and Lynn was working towards coordinating or running a race involving raising money towards missions.  He was also praying with his wife Natasha about an overseas call to missions in their future before he passed.  A group of his running friends followed through in running the upcoming race that Lynn never got to participate in.

2 months ago today, as of this minute, Lynn was enjoying a Daddy-daughter date with Roya.  She loved going on special dates with Dad to Tim Hortons for a donut.  Later, early evening, we all snuggled up on the couch downstairs, the four of us, watching Lynn's favorite... the Muppet Show.  I can picture him... what he was wearing, his laughter, and how he mimicked the characters...

Several times throughout that afternoon, Lynn had shivered unusually, like a chill, saying, Ugh...  I have this nervous energy about my run tonight.

He had originally planned his run for the afternoon after church.  He had his route all mapped out and recorded into his online running apps... (He mapped out his runs well in advance, enjoying the challenge of planning a route according to whatever mileage was suggested on his training app.)  Later, though, he changed his route to accommodate Andrew's schedule, so they could enjoy their first run together since we'd returned after vacation.  He left the house around 7:00pm that evening (I think), waving goodbye in his running gear, running belt in place, some tracker in his shoe, and his IPod strapped to his arm, counting his mileage.

Later that evening, I was reading a book in bed.  I thought to myself.  Oh Lynn.  He's late as usual.  Probably hanging out with the Boone's and chatting up a storm. *endearing sigh

The phone rang.  I missed it.  I saw it was the Boones and assumed it was Lynn telling me he's on his way home (10-10:30pm?).  I called right back and heard Sara's voice.  O, I thought, it's not usually Sara...

Then she's asking me questions.  Lynn's not doing well. The paramedics are pounding on his chest.  I am to meet them at the hospital.  Sara is coming to stay with the kids so I can leave...

I walk around in a daze.  I think, O, Lynn only has his sweaty running clothes on.  I'll pack him a change of clothes for after this fiasco when we're ready to come home.  Sara arrives.  I take my purse and my bag of Lynn's clothes, socks, shoes, and all, and head off to the hospital.

The road is empty and the urgency is building inside.  I run red lights.  I pass a car on a main road across the yellow line.  Like a robot, I get out of the car and walk towards Pastor Cory who's waiting for me at the door.  He doesn't know what happened, either, but was told to come.

Soon I am ushered around the corner.  People are watching me.  Then I am intercepted and led in the other direction to the family waiting room.  The sights, the smells... Inside I know.  I talk to Andrew and ask what happened.  The Doctor comes in.  Three sentences: His heart stopped.  He stopped breathing.  He's dead.  

Andrew cries.  Cory sucks in his breath.  The air is thick and heavy.  The lights dim and hazy.  I stand up and ask (demand actually) to see my husband and they lead me back down the hall.  I walk in and gaze upon the impossible.  My husband... an empty shell.  Bruised and lifeless.  Completely gone.  Empty.

The presence of God was with me, filling me.  I looked at the most traumatic scene, I never could have imagined it, contrasted with visions of glory dancing around the room.  I said, God, I have the faith that you could raise this body from the dead if it is your will.  But this is Your time?  Somehow, I knew it was.

I sat.  I answered questions.  I called my Mom, who screamed and said they're on their way.  I held his hand.  I felt the last bit of warmth leave his body.

Then I went home (Shannon drove me and others followed), with my bag of Lynn's change of clothes, walking into a heavy darkness I had no idea possible, with the comfort of God's presence aglow within my heart...  Only vaguely aware of everything I would have to do and face in the coming days, weeks, months... years?

Excerpts from Natasha's blog remembering Lynn as a person:

I want to hear his laugh again, listen to his ridiculous rants on any particular subject, but especially politics.  I want to hear him shaking up trouble in the kitchen, dirtying every dish in the house to make up some new concoction he got into his head. I want to hear him break into a Pres Medders impression in a group of Baptists who have no idea what he's talking about and watch him not care the slightest bit.  I want to laugh/cringe when he embarrasses me in public by making all kinds of lewd remarks and dangerously approaches the VERY INAPPROPRIATE zone right in the middle of church (my line is pretty conservative, just so you know :)...) I want to walk the streets of Rehoboth and tease him for breaking out into his weird, cool kid, American strut while he starts carrying on in spanish, or with a latino or mexican female accent???  I want to hear him come bounding up the steps, jump on the bed while I'm reading, his smile taking over his whole face, his eyes gleaming with love and excitement, just to see me and tell me about his day...  I want to hear him at the piano, see him talking people's ears off, watch his gifts in action.  I want to see him break into laughter that sends his head down and to the side, a hand goes in front of the face, and his body contorts into this unique, delightful expression of hilarity and joyfulness... I want to know the world is going to be a better place, because Lynn is going to influence it.  To be an Erskine means "to do better than I have already done before"... Lynn Erskine would never have rested before his dying day, no matter how long or not long that would take to come, because every day was the best day of his life, and life was for living, and living was done with excellence.  It always meant being a better you today than you were yesterday.

I will never again see Lynn's face as he comes around the corner, home from work, with the girls running to greet him.  Never again will I feel his arms come around from behind me when I'm doing dishes at the sink.  Never again will I answer the phone and hear his voice, Hi Babe! Never again will I feel his presence, exuding passion, energy, and life, or his tenderness as he reaches over and touches my face in the car.  It's the way he leaned back just so when satisfied after a good meal.  The way he oddly hiked up his pant legs in the summer when he was hot instead of changing into shorts.  The way he played music at our piano with two eager daughters climbing all over him.  The way he sparkled when he talked about his favorite composers or what concert he was doing next...

Lynn, being Lynn, sang back-up once with Steve Green at the church where he did his internship, Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan.  We were dating at the time, but very quickly falling in love.  During that concert, Steve Green called his wife on her cell phone through the sound system for the whole auditorium to hear and sang to her "their" song - Holding Hands, by Steve Green.  Later, back stage, Lynn asked him, Hey Steve? (Okay, he likely didn't say it like that...) What was that song you sang to your wife?  Steve replied with a twinkle in his eye, When are you getting engaged? Lynn sort of flushed and stammered, Well I'm not, really, yet...  Still, it became our song :)  And lo and behold, (I should have seen it coming), he tried to sing it to me as part of his vows on our wedding day. (I say tried because he wept like a baby and barely got a single word out!!)
This became a song that we listened to throughout our marriage on very special occasions... We danced to it in the night, in a dark and quiet house after the girls had gone to bed... Holding hands always meant something special, a belonging, a loyalty, a commitment...

I remember a few particular instances since Lynn's death when I watched another husband tenderly take his wife's hand in his, holding it as if it was life's most precious gift... It was beautiful, but bittersweet, like tears of joy streaming down your cheeks, while a knife is stabbing at your heart...

On our anniversary, after going through our wedding pictures, I picked up some more of our old cards.  The first one I opened said, My hand misses yours.  And I thought, Yes, Babe!! My hand misses yours!

But as I felt the emptiness of my hands, that still small voice whispered inside my heart... Open hands.

Lynn led our family in radical generosity.  Selfishness was not permitted and would not be tolerated.  I began to say to our children (at least 100 times a day...), We expect you to have a generous heart, and a generous heart means open hands, open hands for sharing... We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

My hand is empty of its companion.  How my hand misses his!!  But Lynn left me with a gift to steward... the gift of generosity.  My hands may be empty, but they are open.  Before, one hand was open while the other one filled... Now they are both open, turned outward, We are blessed to be a blessing...

Lynn's example of generosity impacts me.  I feel a responsibility to steward this gift, though I will never be Lynn and cannot carry forward who he was and is...

All I hear is the echo of emptiness in the big dark cloud that follows me wherever I go, where my husband used to take up residence... The part of me that was him, one with him... just empty.  In that hollow space, my singular thoughts echo loudly... repeating over and over, My husband died.  He died.  Sometimes it says, Lynn would be doing this.  Lynn would be saying that.  Where is Lynn's contribution in this conversation?

Sunday morning, it snowed.  I picked myself up, got "decked out" in black apparel :), and adorned my neck with pearls (one of my favorite gifts from Lynn), and went to church.

For supper, I made a meal Lynn would have been proud of, sprouted rice with quinoa blend, peas (because Roya eats them), raw carrots (because Roya eats them), and whole almonds I toasted on the stove with a little oil, salt, and chilli powder.  

I called the girls to come to the table and low and behold, they came down for dinner dressed in their Indian outfits Daddy had brought back form his trip to India in February 2011.   Our meal wasn't necessarily Indian, but it seemed fitting nonetheless and brought back many memories with our global-justice minded and culturally savvy husband/Daddy.
My friend.
The rain is pouring down on my rooftop.  The sound is beautiful. rhythmic. mesmerizing.  Lynn loved the rain.  It soothed him.  He was still, tranquil, and romantic when listening to the rain.

It's about that time... This is the time I would be up in bed, waiting for Lynn to get home, knowing that if I wanted to sleep it had to be before he arrived, because otherwise he'd keep me up talking, but also knowing I was too anxious to see him and would undoubtedly stay awake until I heard those sounds...  First the car, then the gravel, the car door, then the front steps, the front door... And soon enough he'd be bounding up the steps to our bedroom to see me.  Sometimes, I'd pretend to be asleep thinking.. Oh no.  He's full of energy tonight.  I soooo want sleep!!  But he knew :)  And I couldn't keep away from him.  Soon we'd start talking.  His day would start flowing.  He'd carry on until I kicked him out.  Then, he'd go downstairs to our living room rocking chair and read running articles or food blogs online on his IPad...  After an hour or so, if he still couldn't calm his brain down, he'd be back for more.  He'd bound into bed, still full of energy, trying to let me sleep but unable to reign in his loving heart.  I was after all, his best friend.  So he'd share some more, then roll over and snore.  Yet, again, I would sigh into his back, roll over to my own sleeping position, and stay up half the night pondering the things he'd shared...  Unable to sleep by both the burdens Lynn had shared, the noise of his snoring (sometimes), and... sheer frustration that he'd done it to me again :).

Being married to my best friend was wonderful.  We shared everything.  We enjoyed every moment of each others company.  The adjustment to parenthood and active ministry was hard, but we were determined to raise the standard and make it work.  We loved each other.

This is the card I read from him tonight, written November 5, 2001, when we had known each other only two months and were not even dating yet :)
Thanks again for the walk and talk last evening.  I appreciated your openness and welcome you to continue that.  Thanks also for really relaxing me and calming me down.  It's a treasure to have such a close friend with whom I can be completely myself.  Thanks for listening to me ramble non-stop.  It's nice that you pay attention even when I get boring.  You really encouraged me last night, and I hope I can be just as kind to you sometime.  God bless you for your Christ-like heart and uncanny sensitivity.

Many years ago, God began revealing Himself to me, opening up my mind and heart to learn of Him, to know Him, beyond any particular denomination or theological context.  Dare to trust me and seek me in the Word and by the Holy Spirit, no boxes, and no limits...  Lynn was so good at this.  He encouraged me in it.  He had no fear when it came to branching out, exploration the true nature of God.  He always said, God is big enough to handle it if I make a mistake.  When we stay grounded in the Word and keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we can dare to trust Him to keep us and perfect us until the day of Christ Jesus...

I'm honored to take up the mantel of loving and caring for Lynn's wife and daughters in a way that would make God and hopefully Lynn proud.  He sounds like a man whom God was pleased with.

1 comment:

Shannon J Skafte said...

This is deeply moving, you have shown such care, and almost, what word m I looking for... a brotherly love in this post. Thank you.