Two weeks later instead of getting a phone call from Rich, we received a text from Terri. I don't remember the exact words but it was something like, "Lori, we need prayers! We just left the doctor's office after Rich's yearly exam and something is not right." I text Terri back not knowing what to think. The next text was read with a heavy heart and complete disbelief! "Doctor says blood work is showing elevated cells like leukemia, but that can't be! Oncologist tomorrow." "No God! Please NO!" That was the first of many prayers.
The next day we were sitting in the waiting room with the family who had gathered waiting to hear, well to be honest, waiting to hear there had been a mistake reading the blood work! That was not the case. But you know what I remember most? Rich's big smile and hearing him say, "God's in control!"
Rich and Terri flew to Houston to MD Anderson that weekend so Rich could be tested again. "Please God let their have been a mistake!"
Rich spent the next year fighting his hardest to beat the leukemia. There were so many prayers said, there were questions asked over and over. When we were worn down from not getting the answers WE wanted, it was RICH who told us time and again, "God is in control!" Even when he was so sick and didn't feel like it, he was at church worshiping and serving God. I can remember sitting in the video booth and watching him serve communion. He wore a medical mask so he didn't pick up any germs. He was thinner but still looked so strong! I held back, most of the time unsuccessfully, a million tears and silently saying "Please God! Please!"
No matter how bad Rich felt, he had that smile, his kind words, and was way more concerned about other people!
On this day a year ago, I was getting ready for work when my dad called. Rich was in the hospital in Joplin and my Dad had gone up early to pray with him. The news was not good and we needed to get to the hospital quick! We woke Lacey up and ran! It was a long, tear filled, sad for us day. There were a few laughs, a lot of hugs, even more tears, and good byes! It was so difficult, but I would not have been anywhere else that day!
I've missed my friend over this last year! I can hear little things he would say. I know he would have called when we dropped Lacey off at school! I know the times he would've called or text Lacey with a little bit of encouragement. I still look for him to be serving communion or handing me a pack of gum or waiting for him to poke his head around the sanctuary door to ask how we are doing. Rich and Zane were always game to go out to try the new little dive restaurants and I know Zane misses those lunch dates.
Rich was a man after God's own heart. He was humble, he was meek, he was generous, he was thankful, he extended grace and forgiveness. I'm sure Rich was not as perfect as he seemed all the time, but that was few and far between.He touched so many lives. Even with our kids in Haiti! Rich would send candy for them every time we went and the kids all knew who Rich was!
Rich's journey over that year became a learning and growing journey for all of us who knew him. Some of those were hard lessons. Our prayers were not answered the way we wanted them to be, but GOD IS IN CONTROL!
After Zane and I married and moved back to Joplin Mo, we started attending Villa Heights Christian Church. It was there that we became acquainted with Rich & Terri Weisensee.
It was your typical church friendship at first: seeing each other at Sunday School, church on Sundays & Wednesdays, church activities, etc. Terri was quiet and Rich had a beaming smile. They had 2 girls, Rachel and Megan. Slowly that friendship grew.
Lacey was born 4 years later and did not like being away from me, so we kept her in church. Rich, Terri, the girls, and Terri's parents sat in the pew behind us! As Lacey grew, we would hear giggles coming from that pew. Rachel was so excited one day because she had taught Lacey to stick out her tongue! Terri's mom had Lacey addicted to "smarties" by the time she was 6 months old! There was a bond forming, the friendship growing stronger.
Lacey wouldn't go to any class until she was an older 2 year old. Rich and Terri were her first Wee Worship teachers. She adored Rich & Terri and the girls. The feeling was pretty mutual. Lacey was an extension to their family, after all she acted just like Rachel! Not only did they help teach her the Bible, they helped nurture Lacey's love of acting and dance. They loved it when Lacey would randomly break out singing the "Cops" theme song during class! Or when they were playing with play dough and Lacey's mean side would come out and she would make big blobs and say in a mean tone, "You want some of this?" Rich and Terri loved that at ages 4-8, 9, 10 Lacey's favorite movie was the Broadway production of "Cats"! I think there was comfort in the fact that we both had crazy kids!
The friendship grew to include home Bible studies, helping each other out with different projects, dinners out, watching our daughters perform at Joplin Little Theater, or other plays, dance recitals, softball games, phone calls, eventually weddings and being excited for their grandchildren. Our families had intertwined and become a non blood family ourselves.
Rich & Terri came and sat with me, held my hand, hugged me, cried with me during some of my darkest hours. Rich, through God, knew exactly when I needed to hear a kind word or see a smiling face. They made sure Lacey was ok and happy! Rich had lunch dates with Zane as often as possible!
Rachel and Megan had both married and moved away from Joplin so Rich and Terri were traveling to see them on the weekends. Rich had also started traveling a lot more for his job. We weren’t able to get together as much as we would’ve liked.
Late February two years ago Zane and I had lunch with Rich. Rich was getting over a cold. We talked about that and his great health in general. We talked about Lacey being a Senior and her future plans. We talked about Rachel and her acting career and Megan and her 3 boys and finally a little girl due the next month. It was a typical “catch up” lunch with a promise to have lunch again in two weeks
Now that Lacey is off at college, I find myself with way too much time to think. For me, thinking leads to worrying and worrying leads to worst case scenario. So I thought maybe blogging and putting some of my thoughts down might help myself. You never know, at some point I might come up with a clever thought or idea in the process!