Eulogy for my mother

 

Harriet Louise (Speer) Jewell (January 26, 1927-September 11, 2016)

We celebrate through tears the crescendo of a long goodbye

We gather here to celebrate our mother, grandmother, great grandmother, friend; and for the crescendo of a long goodbye.

We’ve expected Mom’s passing for some time, as her earthly mind and body weakened. Nonetheless, her passing is a jolting moment–laden with meaning and memory and sacredness.

And honestly our emotions are raw in this continuation of a summer of mourning. The thin door between temporal and heavenly life has opened often this year for our family, which leaves us reeling at times and uncertain of God’s ways and timing.

I want to take some time to reflect on Mom’s life, our memories, what it has meant to us, and consider how it is affecting us now.

1. This is a time in which we experience sadness, and yet we rejoice that Mom is free and whole, with Jesus. And she is with Dad, her first love. With Barbara Ann, her first born. And with Matthew, her first grandchild. 

When we think of Mom, our most immediate memory is the 8 years of decline.  And before that, we remember the years of courageous effort to live alone. But mostly we think of Mom and Dad, Harry and Harriet. A beloved couple wherever they went, whatever they touched.

We do rejoice that they are together again—perhaps taking long walks—and certainly without labored breaths or shaking hands. Steady, vibrant, Glorified.

2. This is a time of reflection on a long, whispered goodbye

After dad died 12 ½ years ago, Mom was determined to live independently, in their house in Grand Rapids. And she did that, and did quite well, for about 3 or 4 years. When she began losing the distinction between dreams and reality, it was clear that she needed to be with others.  That began a period of time in the Stanford home, and then to her final residence by the Rock River.

In the final years, Parkinson’s and its treatments took their toll and our visits with her were more about being together and bringing some life to her days and loving on her. Communication faded. We welcomed snatches of recognition, glimpses of a smile, the squeeze of a hand.

As a family, we honor those who were so involved in Mom’s care after Dad was no longer there to provide it. First, Pamela and her family in Grand Rapids were Mom’s lifeline for years, and the Hartung children had so much time with Grandma and served her well. Then, Barb and her family welcomed Mom into their home, and increased the level of care as Mom’s abilities diminished. As Mom moved to her riverside home in Osborn, Patti and Barb and their families were nearby and visited Mom often, with whispers of love as she slipped away from us, from reality, from coherency, and from communication.

As a family, we salute and thank Peggy and Louis, who were Mom’s caregivers for almost 7 years. We are grateful to you for taking care of our loved one.

3. This is not a shock to us, but it is a sobering generational break. There is a loss of connection with our past.

This week, for the first time in our lives, my sisters and I are orphans. We began to feel this, of course, when Mom slid away from consciousness and communication.

We want to have answers to questions—not so much the meaning of life, as why our kids have certain characteristics; is it in the gene pool?  Or what did great-grandfather Speer do for a living? Or, how did you handle losing your first child right after child birth? We didn’t have the last decade of her life to ask the questions, because it was difficult to communicate. When Dad was on his countdown to eternity, we knew it and we asked questions that had not been asked—although not enough. But with Mom, this wasn’t possible during the final years. We feel alone with our questions.

Mom and Dad were exemplary. They were models of faith and marriage and family. Of solid, common-sense values. I, we, feel unworthy to create a sequel to these champions of the greatest generation.

4. This is a time of gratitude for our heritage

We are grateful to God for our heritage, our sound upbringing, the values we were taught, the faith of our father and mother, the security of traditional assumptions, the trust we had in Mom and Dad.  The calming effect of solid and practical and compassionate people. Totally aside from finances, growing up, there was a security of love, support, concern, affirmation.

Some things Debbie and I heard recently helped me realize the core strength of Mom and Dad’s parenting, which featured these strong pillars:

  • There was a certainty of faith, of biblical truth, of God’s love and the call of obedience. We always understood that there was nothing more important than being right with God.
  • There was an expectation of excellence. We can’t remember a time when education was not seen as an automatic priority, or a time when going to college was an option. It was like breathing.  All four of us went to college and graduated.  It was simply the next of life’s steps.  And beyond education, there were was an expectation that we would strive to be all we could be.
  • There was a modeling of financial basics. One of my childhood memories is Mom and Dad huddled over a budget book, sorting out how to stretch a steady but modest income, dealing with the issue stated on a sign over Dad’s desk that read: “Why is there always so much month left at the end of the money.?” Discipline was demonstrated and taught—don’t spend money you don’t have, save, give, plan, trust.

What a godly heritage!  Faith was the fabric of Mom’s life–a gift to us all that is unending

 5. This is a time of memories about a good, vibrant, honest woman of her times

Harriet Louise Speer Jewell was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, to James Kirker and Alice May Fulmer Speer, on January 26, 1927. Her name was selected by her siblings from a poem about a doll named Harriet Louise.

When Mom was born nearly 90 years ago, things were very different.

  • Life expectancy of a girl born in 1927 was just 62—so Mom surpassed that by nearly three decades.
  • Only 14 percent of all homes had a bathtub.
  • 95 percent of all American births occurred at home
  • Only 6 percent of Americans had graduated from high school
  • Charles Lindbergh made the world’s first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1927
  • There were only 230 murders reported in the entire country.

When Mom was 4, the stock market crashed and the great depression descended on America and the world.  Mom was a depression-era child. Her father bounced from job to job and life was not easy. It seems that in her childhood home, she often heard more criticism than praise.

Ten years later, when Mom was 14, America went to war.

She met Dad soon after he returned from his tour of duty in Europe. They met at Ashtabula Hyde and Leather, where she’d been working during wartime (that building, by the way, is still standing along the river in Ashtabula). They married at the family home at 1633 East 47th street in Ashtabula, Ohio on June 30, 1946. Mom was 19 and Dad, then a war veteran, was 21. They honeymooned at Letchworth State Park in New York and Niagara Falls.

Their first baby, the first Barbara, Barbara Ann, was born on March 29, 1947, and died three days after birth because of drugs used to induce birth. Can you imagine? What heartache for Mom at such a young age.

There were four more children born over the next 14 years; three in three-year intervals (Patti in 1948, Barb in 1951, and Jim in 1954), and one eight years later (Pamela in 1962). A lot of Mom’s time was devoted to raising these four children and moving because of Dad’s job, about every three years for much of their married life. The Jewell homestead was a moving target—Ashtabula, Ohio; Westfield, New Jersey; Gibsonia, Pa., Sturbridge, Mass., (and back to Gibsonia); Danvers, Mass.; Emmaus, Pa., Muscatine, Iowa; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mom’s life also revolved around the church. Most of Mom’s good friends and experiences came from the church, and in retirement from Mom and Dad’s service with Mobile Missionary Assistance Program (construction projects for churches, Christian camps, etc).

Mom’s first serious health challenge came about 25 years ago when a neighborhood walk on a cold day ended with a heart attack and successful double bypass surgery. She’s had no further heart problems, but the onset of Parkinson’s seemed to be triggered by that attack. Then, she was forced into the role of caregiver as Dad’s final years were diminished with pulmonary fibrosis, which took his life, even as Parkinson’s weakened her.

Mom was determined to live alone, and she did so courageously for several years, which gave her great pride, until vivid dreams began to seem like reality and extend into daytime. That’s when she moved in with Barb and her family in Rock Island, and then to her riverside home.

Mom’s life spanned from the Great Depression and World War II, through to the 15th anniversary of 9/11. She had a wonderful marriage of 58 years, and she built her life around her husband, her children, and her faith.

Memories

Harriet Jewell was an engaging, colorful, inquisitive woman, deeply committed to the Lord, involved in the lives of her family and the ministries of the church, and ever striving to better herself.

There are many wonderful memories.  That’s not to say all of our memories of Mom are sweetness and light; they include the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mom was an assertive and involved parent until the time she could no longer fill that role!

Throughout most of her life, Mom demonstrated an unease—about herself, about some of the “why’s” that beset us all as we look at our own lot.  She was uncertain of her value and troubled by low self-esteem. Often unsatisfied and even envious.

But also in that, she was a teacher, as she sought personal counseling in her later years, not content to allow the demons of her past to continue to gnaw at her emotions. She got great help from that.

And she learned how to play the piano – after retirement!  Grandma Moses-like. I love that.

As Mom’s four living children, we compiled some memories of our experiences with her.

Patti remembers:

  • In my early years we lived in Dorset, and I have one very early, fuzzy memory of being in a room with, I think, Dad’s parents and four of his grandparents, my great-grandparents. Only one of those great-grandparents, Grandma Leonard, lived long enough for me to actually remember her. (She was 93 when she died).
  • When we moved to Ashtabula (and Barb and Jim were born) I started school, and one of my early memories is of Mom preparing chocolate milkshakes (with raw egg!) for me for breakfast, since I was a picky eater and that was the way she could get some nutrition into me. It was a patient, loving—even indulgent—thing for her to do, and a sweet memory.
  • Another food memory is less sweet: I did not like vegetables, especially peas, and when I HAD to eat them on one occasion (when I was very young), I tucked them into the back of my mouth. Mom found them still there the next morning. As I remember the story, she found it amusing by then, though that would probably not have been her reaction the night before!
  • When we kids were quite young we were involved in BMA (Bible Memory Association), and I think at one time the whole family was memorizing Scripture. I know that Mom and Dad were both an integral part of that endeavor, helping us to learn the verses.
  • A very significant event occurred in the year I was in 2nd I remember coming home from school to a rather frantic mother who had just learned her husband had been hurt at work. He had been burned on his left hand where a leather press had come down on it (but providentially had not crushed it). He spent many months after that in the hospital, dealing with the burn, skin grafts, and recovery from allergic reactions to Penicillin. It was a traumatic time in the life of our family, but God provided grace for Mom to take care of him and 3 children (oh, and a move to NJ and a new job in the middle of all that!) You may remember the smooth patch of skin on the back of Dad’s hand; the result of the skin graft.
  • In 5th grade we had moved back to Ashtabula, and I had the privilege to have the same teacher Mom had in her 5th grade year. Miss Mackey started her career when women did not generally marry and continue teaching; teaching was their life. She was a good teacher, and I had a good year. I particularly enjoyed spelling, as it came easily to me (which doesn’t mean I was smart, by the way! I have since learned that some of the smartest people I know are not particularly good at spelling.)
  • During my 6th grade year I had a very interesting but strict teacher, who was really a stickler for handwriting. I remember in particular that if a word was written with loops in certain letters, like “t” or “d” it was counted as misspelled. Miss Elizabeth E. Erath was so well-known for this insistence on perfect penmanship that Mom hated to write notes to her as she felt she was being judged for her handwriting. We all survived that year, but it was hard to get a C in spelling when I had done so well in spelling in 5th grade! (And Mom’s handwriting was perfectly legible!)
  • In a similar vein, when I was in high school, and going for my driver’s license, we lived in Danvers, MA, and it was a requirement at that time that a parent accompany the applicant during the driving portion of the test. I don’t know why, but Mom was the lucky parent to accompany me. Part of the test was to make a K-turn. When the officer asked me to do that, I pulled forward, stopped, and backed up, right into a snowbank. With great drama the officer looked at me and announced, “Well, little girl, pull over and let your mother drive.” Mom said later that she was sure she was going to lose HER license! But she did fine, and I got my license on the next try, a few weeks later.
  • When we had Matthew, Mom and Dad offered to have our little threesome come and stay with them for a few weeks until we got into the swing of things. And it worked out very well for all of us. It wasn’t until Jason was born that I reflected on that, and wrote to Mom on Mother’s Day about her influence on me. She kept the card I wrote, and years later gave it back to me, with other correspondences through the early years.

Barb remembers:

  • My childhood memories of Mom include the whole family.  Our family vacations were wonderful.  When Patti and I were quite young we vacationed in Florida.  We saw many fascinating places, but one highlight was that Mom had knitted matching zip-up sweaters for Patti and me…hers was blue, and mine was red.  That was pretty special!  When we were quite a bit older, and Jim was getting too old to appreciate this, I still thought it was great that Mom sewed matching outfits for the entire family! I remember our vacations, pulling the pop-up trailer along the highway, stopping beside the road for a picnic lunch, then traveling to the campsite each night.  Our camping, hiking, traveling, and sightseeing together made wonderful memories.
  • A fond memory of Mom when I was in college was her spiritual encouragement.  I was involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, learning to study the Bible for myself, and sharing all I learned with her.  She agreed to do a weekly, through-the-mail Bible Study with me.  It was quite a blessing to both of us and we kept it up through the end of my college days.
  • I remember Mom as always being clean, organized, and tidy.  This was a bit of a frustration for her when she moved in with us, who were not so quick to clean up our messes.  The first snow after she moved here, no one was jumping to the task of cleaning off the snow, so she put on her coat, boots, hat, and gloves, took the broom outside, and brushed the snow off the steps and sidewalk!
  • As Mom was getting more limited in her abilities, I have tender memories of time together.  Music is always good for the soul, so I would sing hymns and read the hymn stories to her.  Later, under Hospice care, a music therapist came twice a month and sang with her and any of the family who could join in. Those are special memories.

Pamela remembers:

Pamela remembers a happy childhood with kick ball in the back yard, a structured rhythm of life, and good family time.

  • Mom was a teacher’s aide at the same school where Pamela began 1st grade in Muscatine, when we first moved there, and she remembers fun playdates with Mom and Jean and Jane Reifert
  • Pamela has early memories of Grandma and Grandpa Speer’s home in Ashtabula, which in her memory always smelled like coffee (this may explain a lot about some of our coffee addictions!). . .

As an adult, I treasured several things:

  • The marriage of mom and dad- a model that I had that those of my friends did not. As Sarah eloquently stated “her life was theirs.”  It’s hard to separate mom and dad. They were a hand-holding, inseparable couple. Their marriage was a teacher for my marriage.
  • Mom and Dad’s life was an integral part of our lives. We worshipped together, played together, did life together. Their involvement in our lives and those of our children were an everyday occurrence and a priceless gift.
  • For mom specifically, after college she became not just mom but friend. We talked every day on the phone. This is a wonderful memory.
  • As mom’s memory began to fail, a favorite but comical memory was going down to the school room and using my white board to map out who her children were, their spouses, and children, and talking through stories–at that point appreciated and not offensive. Educational fun!

Jim remembers:

  • I’m not sure if my sisters were ever spanked. But I was.  Although mischievous and I’m sure somewhat irritating, I wasn’t terribly disobedient.  But I had my moments, and Mom was the disciplinarian—and I had my share of spankings (at least until I was bigger than Mom).
  • Of course, we moved a lot. One of Mom’s roles in my life was to help me navigate what was “in” and what wasn’t in every new hometown.  I remember trouble with certain kinds of shirts, and colors of socks! . . .
  • When I was in 6th grade, in Danvers, we played a lot of backyard sports, including football. There were wonderful flat yards. There was a raucous group of friends and neighbors and evidently I was getting pretty roughed up by the guys. This upset Mom more than me, and she decided that I needed to get some boxing lessons, so I could defend myself.  She was serious, but it never happened. I’m sure we just moved.
  • Mom was prayerful. When I moved to California to continue college, she realized that she could no longer do anything about my decisions and circumstances, but she assured me that she pray for me every day. And I know that she did.
  • I remember games of hand and foot, and specifically that I learned where I got my competitive nature. It was Mom. If in a round of hand and foot, Dad could go out but felt like it would make his opponents feel bad, he’d hold off; but not Mom, she’d swoop in for the kill. Yep, that’s me; and some of you, too.  Thanks Mom
  • She had expectations for her children, but she was supportive, even when we messed up. In the most difficult times of my life, she and Dad loved me and comforted me and guided me. You never forget that.
  • Mom has always been outspoken and as age blunted her inhibitors she rarely had an unexpressed thought (you know, things like after Debbie and I were married, and we visited, Mom said to me: “You must like your wife’s cooking, because you’ve put on some weight this year!”). I think we all heard something similar from her!

Mom, your legacy sits in this room, and it extends across the states and around the world. Throughout the years, Mom’s tribe continues to expand and she now has 17 grandchildren: Matthew, Jason, Jeannette, Amy, Calvin, Christopher, Stephanie Jewell, John, Sarah, Caleb, Enoch, Abagail, Esther, Mariah, Michael, Payton, and Caroline. And 14 great-grandchildren: Michael, Luke, Sebastian, Joey, Timothy, Emma, Jane, George, Ruby, Amelia, Blaise, Jewell, Creed, and Harrison.

Your hand, your touch, your voice, your influence is evident in what we are, what we’ve done, the mark we have made on our children and on our world. This is what you intended, this was important to you, and we could tell by the way you lived your life.

6. This is sacred time when we are all reminded that what we believe about God makes all of the difference in the world

At times like this, we are reminded of the importance of our choices and our beliefs about God.  If there was no God, then we pass to nothing. If there was no God, our lives have little continuity or meaning.

But gratefully, because there is an all-powerful God, we can have hope. Because there is a loving God, death is a beginning and not an end. Because there is a merciful God who sent His son Jesus to save us, we can spend eternity with him.

With that assurance, at these times of passage, we can agree with these lyrics:

 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know

Though my heart and flesh may fail

There’s an anchor for my soul

I can say, “it is well”

 

Jesus has overcome

And the grave is overwhelmed

The victory is won

He is risen from the dead

 

I will rise when He calls my name

No more sorrow, no more pain

I will rise on eagles’ wings

Before my God, fall on my knees

And rise

 

We celebrate today Harriet Jewell’s rich life and legacy, and the firm knowledge that she is now in the presence of her Savior, Jesus Christ; and hand-in-hand with her beloved, Harry.

We do not gather to say goodbye, but to repeat these words: Welcome home. Well done, good and faithful servant.  Thank you Mom. We love you.

–Jim Jewell.  Sept. 17, 2016

 

 

 

 

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Can 4 weeks change the trajectory of a life?

It’s great to discover an opportunity to make what may be a lasting difference in the life of a person who really needs to catch a break. We’ve found one, and we’d like to share it with Riga, Latviayou.

Through an agency that specializes in providing glimmers of hope to children truly mired in hopelessness, Debbie, Payton, Kia and I are hosting a 13-year old girl from a Latvia orphanage the 4 weeks surrounding Christmas.

Latvia is one of Baltic States released from 50 years under the Soviet boot, but still slogging through the muck and grimy residue of communism and godless cruelty.  Orphans are among those  suffering the most. The worst prospects—young orphan girls, 60% of whom end up in prostitution or caught in the web of human trafficking.

We can’t bring this crisis to an end. But for one girl, for four weeks, we’ll make every effort to light a fire of hope, and at very least show her the joy, comfort and love of a family who cares; to teach her about God’s deep love for her.

Perhaps it will lead to a lifelong relationships and a future that bucks the odds.

We’re excited about this opportunity. Can you help? We are raising funds to bring this Latvian girl to our county for an unforgettable Christmas. The organization we are working through, New Horizon’s for Children, has set up a fund-raising page for us. Donations are tax-deductible if sent through this donation page, and every donation through this page will go directly to this child’s expenses. Here’s the link: https://www.youcaring.com/b1203-443504

Make a difference. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

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Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural address: 150 years ago

March 4, 1865

Fellow-Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion forLincoln an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

_____

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Resurrection and Grief

My friend and colleague, Chuck, is with his family this week, gathered to bring ease–as Oliviabest they can—as granddaughter Olivia slips from this life. A Trisomy18 baby, Olivia was born to live in this world briefly, a month-long, difficult prelude to eternity.

Chuck wrote:

The reality of the road we’re all walking continues to set in. Grief and sorrow are present. Anger that such an innocent little body should pay the penalty of sin. Yet we know death is the doorway to eternity with Christ and we celebrate that victorious promise! We cannot wait to meet her in Heaven someday and relive these days together. We trust in that hope and confidence that she will soon be in Jesus’ arms, who loves her and gave his life for every one of us bearing the burden of the curse.

Assurance, yet grief. It is common to us who have had loved ones slip from this life to the next, some after long lives, others much too early in our view. Indeed, Jesus shared these very emotions as he experienced—with Mary and Martha of Bethany—the death of his friend Lazarus. In all certainty, he tells Martha: “He will rise again” (John 11:23). Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

And yet even as He assures his friends of the resurrection, of life (and just prior to bringing Lazarus back from the grave that very day), even then, “Jesus wept.” The grief of death, the palpable sorrow of his friends, the weight of sin, the sorrow of the ages; it weighed heavily on the Prince of Peace.

So with our friends, with Olivia’s mother, father, grandparents and siblings, we celebrate the resurrection, the promise of eternity. And yes, we weep.

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Protecting Marriage: Ironic promotional language for a session at the forthcoming NRB Convention

The headline of a promotional email for a session at the National Religious Broadcasters "He'll always be there for her"convention reads: “Protecting Marriage: How to Get the Media Message Right for This Generation.” So how can we explain Protecting Marriage to this generation? (By which I guess they mean somewhat younger people, although those of us getting long in the tooth are still around, so we’d really be part of This Generation. But that’s not my real quibble).

I thought I’d offer NRB some Protecting Marriage messaging that comes to mind.

  • Pre-marital honesty.
  • Fidelity.
  • Communication.
  • Others-centric decisions.
  • Unplug.
  • Put spouse first.
  • Strategic chocolate.
  • Keep no record of wrongs.
  • Have lots of small skirmishes.
  • Don’t shop for shoes together.
  • Many babysitters.

Oh, well that of course isn’t what the NRB session is about. It’s about same-sex marriage, although the copy obfuscates that point, and the quote written for NRB president Jerry Johnson (I’m going to give him a break and assume this was written for him—I know how this sort of thing works) is horrendous.

The first paragraphs read:

“Natural and biblical marriage between a man and a woman is under unprecedented attack.

“This is a time like no other in our American society,” noted Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, NRB President & CEO. “The current societal and political view of marriage drastically distorts the biblical definition that has grounded our country since its inception. It’s crucial that we understand the competing views and how to best reach this generation with God’s model for marriage.”

What? Our definition of marriage is what has “grounded our country?”  This is an important issue, but that’s a stretch!  (You could make a much better argument, for instance, that the founders’ understanding of the total depravity of man formed their basis of the Constitutional separation of powers, which has strengthened our country).

There are substantial arguments that can be made by a Christian group against a definition of marriage that includes same-sex couples.  So why was the entire promotion written without identifying the actual topic of the session? Is this NRB’s idea of how to write a penetrating media message for this generation?

I believe the marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred matter set out in Scripture as a joyful and solemn ceremony of the Church. It’s my view that the state should grant same-sex couples the same rights and freedoms as those in traditional marriages. Their union just shouldn’t be called or considered marriage, which has been defined by biblical teaching and 4000 years of human history as heterosexual, and has been a rite of the church.

But the right governmental formulations on this aren’t going to protect and sustain heterosexual marriages nearly as much as when we as men learn to do the dishes and take our girls to ballet class.

And that’s my media sound bite.

–Jim Jewell

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On Veterans Day: Memorabilia from My Father, the WWII Veteran

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Harry Jewell, center, with buddies on a tank in northern Italy, 1945.

My father was a World War II veteran. Veterans of these battlefields of the last century are now bowed men in their eighties and nineties speaking hesitantly about their colleagues and their service a lifetime ago in the killing fields of Europe and Asia.

Dad served his country mostly in Italy during World War II, and he was a hero of the American variety—putting his life on the line to save the world, and spending his life to serve his family, assuring their well-being in so many ways. We owe our nation to these men, because of their moral strength, their youthful sacrifices, and their country-building ethic. Dad died 10 years ago, alive now with the Lord.

I am the ‘curator’ of his wartime memorabilia, a collection of photos, medals, ribbons, notes, a Bible, mugs, foreign coins and bills, etc.

Here are photos of a few of the worn black and white photos, as well as shots of the Bible he received the day he entered the U.S. Army, May 15, 1943. Also a page from his travel notes.

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Captured German soldiers, Italy 1945

dad 1

Harry Jewell, 1945 (5th Army, 34th Division, 135th Infantry)

dad 3 rotated

Dad, without shirt in the center, with his comrades during a break at the Anzio Beachhead, 1945.

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Dad, 1945, a little sightseeing in Italy

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Flyleaf of the bible Dad was given on his first day in the Army.

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This is pretty amazing. The White House endorses this effort by the Gideons!

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Dad’s commitment to Christ, in the back of his new Bible, May 15, 1943

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Notes on a bad night: April 27, 1945. It got better the next day. This is the week before the Germans surrendered Italy.

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Brett Walls’ Magnificent Journey against Locked In Syndrome and United Health Care Paralysis

CHICAGO — Two blocks east of Chicago’s posh Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, in the shadow of the spectacular John Hancock skyscraper, sits the world’s leading hospital and research enterprise in physical medicine and rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

It is a place of hard fought miracles, and it’s where the latest chapter of Cincinnati restaurateur Bret Walls has played out over the last 6 weeks. Brett has progressed beyond all hope from the death sentence of a massive stroke and the in-body prison of Locked In Syndrome. With advances more dramatic than I described in August, Brett has amazed the medical staff of RIC with his determination and encouraging steps toward recovery.

This miraculous progress pleases everyone, that is except for what Brett, family, and friends have come to see as the anti-miracle, United Healthcare, which continues to make every possible attempt to block ongoing therapy for Brett.

On Friday, UHC informed Brett’s wife, Gayle, that they would be cutting short his time at RIC because he is not meeting their “criteria.” From their past obfuscation it’s hard to know what that means; sometimes UHC delays or denies payment because Brett’s making too much progress (doesn’t need aggressive help) and other times it’s because he’s making too little progress (this will never work).  What is clear is their threat to stop paying for Brett’s continuing care at RIC next week.  On Monday, they indicated that they’re pulling him from the world’s leading rehabilitation center because he’s not walking yet .

This continues a pattern of disruption, deception, and obstruction that has slowed Brett’s recovery and put the family on the edge of financial ruin.  And it is clear to all those close to the situation that Brett would be even further into his recovery–perhaps even walking–if UHC had agreed to aggressive rehab much earlier, on their own, rather than being forced to by the Ohio insurance overseers.

When Brett lay prone in a Cincinnati hospital, clinging to life with a prognosis of lifelessness, at best, UHC refused to accept his courage and detemination and sought to dash all hope for progress. He did not meet the criteria for hope.

When he progressed against all odds, breathing unassisted, swallowing, holding up his head, moving toes, fingers, then shifting arms and legs, gripping, sitting tall, and much more, UHC did not rejoice with the family. UHC did not recognize the sheet humanity of supporting human progress. UHC did not pledge to support Brett in his battle for vitality; his effort to speak, to stand and walk, to hug his wife and live a normal life.

Instead, he no longer meets UHC criteria for aggressive rehabilitation because although he has defied all expectations and made huge strides in recovery, he is not walking. Not yet.

United Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, and yes, one of the most reviled and mistrusted, has shown that it does not belong as a key component in the health care system, for it does not remotely follow the physician’s Hippocratic Oath to “willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood.”

Family and friends have stood by Brett’s wife Gayle, who has poured her life into the battle against medical odds and insurance company paralysis.  And there is growing support on social media, with Ohio’s key politicians, and among the people of faith, who have given and spoken and prayed for Brett’s recovery. Now, here in Chicago, despite the callous obstruction of United Healthcare, Brett and caring, decent people across the country are working against evil, believing in a miracle.

–Jim Jewell

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Note: To support Brett, join the social media battle against @myUHC, for #BrettWalls.  And please consider donating to his medical fund.

Posted in Ethics, Family, Jim Jewell, Virtue | 2 Comments

A Milestone Birthday for Debbie Jewell: Celebrating a Life Well Started

When you reach milestones that begin with crooked numbers, it is common to reflect on years gone by and their results.debbie 2013 2

Today we’re celebrating the milestone birthday of a remarkable woman whose 50 years have been time well-spent.  Debra Elizabeth Payton-Jewell personifies a live of giving, not taking. 

Raised in a financially Spartan but spiritually and socially robust environment as the child of Salvation Army ministers, she learned about giving as a natural and urgent response to God’s creative and redemptive gifts.  She has made much of her crafting by an attentive family and the larger church that were her formative influences, looking at life face-on and pouring herself into the tasks and opportunities before her.

Those of us close to her in this pivotal year know the vitality and contribution of Debbie in just this, her latest and certainly her most important career.  After establishing herself professionally with careers in social work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, in government service as an aide to a U.S. Congressman, and in communications as a fundraiser and public relations professional, Debbie then embarked on the impossible.  She birthed two children after the age of 43, and is investing these great years not in decorating a lake home or relaxing in well-deserved comfort, but in weaving and perfecting the character of two little beauties (girls naturally in her image) to take on the very character of her God. 

And now, she is also touching the lives of other children, brought into our home and receiving the special care and love that mark this remarkable woman.

The person who has benefited most from Debbie’s birth, God’s gift to us all, and from this  half-century of character formation and professionalism, and from her investment in her family, is the individual who now knows her best and  loves her most.  Her impact on my life is truly immeasurable, colossal.  I am the luckiest man in the world because of it. 

The places and people and challenges that Debbie has touched have been better for it.  What a start!  Onward to the next 50!

I love you, my beautiful Debra.  Happy, happy birthday.

 –Jim Jewell

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Autopsy Abuse Gets Personal

When race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. was run over and killed by NASCAR star Tony Stewart on a track in upstate NY Saturday, we saw self-destructive machismo at its worst.  Many think Steward didn’t try very hard to stay clear of Ward, mostly because Stewart is frequently a bully.  But then again if you watch the video of the incident, Ward is clearly strutting out into the travel lane wagging his finger at passing cars, unhappy that he was forced into the wall.  Another tough guy throwing caution to the wind to speak his mind.  Men being stupid with tragic consequences.

But I was struck by something else in this news story. Two days after the accident, the coroner announced that an autopsy had been done on Ward’s body and it indicated that he’d been killed by massive blunt trauma.  Now there’s a newsflash.  The guy was run over by a race car and he’d suffered blunt force trauma.  Duh.

It’s sad for my family because several weeks ago my cousin-in-law George Payton in upstate NY was fighting the flu and ended up dead.  He’d been to the doctor or ER 4 times and sent home each time.  Then he fell over dead.  The family requested an autopsy, but the coroner either forgot, or was lazy, or colluded with a malpractice-fearing hospital and didn’t do an autopsy. He wrote on the death certificate that George, a large man in so many ways, had died from complications of obesity.  I don’t know why George died, but if they do autopsies on race car drivers who die after being hit by a race car, why in the world wouldn’t they perform an autopsy in the sudden and puzzling death of a 51 year old man who had the flu but was otherwise apparently healthy.  Especially when neglect, incompetence or nefarious intent were possible factors.

That’s what autopsies are for.  Not to tell us the obvious.

–Jim Jewell

Posted in Communications, Family, Jim Jewell, News media | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Shame on you, Ann Coulter

SP, ebolaI frequently agree with Ann Coulter’s political commentary, although more often than not I’m put off by her acerbic, often cruel, manner.  I don’t appreciate cruelty and personal attacks from the right any more than I do from the left.

However, I’m appalled by the content and tone of the wrong-headed and mean-spirited column by Coulter on Samaritan’s Purse missionary Dr. Kent Brantly, who neared death by Ebola before apparently being saved by an experimental drug and an airlift to Atlanta.  Both he and missionary nurse Nancy Writebol, who also contracted Ebola in Liberia and was airlifted, are improving in insolation units at Emory Hospital.

Coulter sees no sense in missionary service in difficult settings outside the U.S., and not only mocks Brantly’s decision to serve in Liberia, but writes that serving in the developing world instead of fighting American culture wars demonstrates cowardice and miscalculation. She writes:

“If Brantly had evangelized in New York City or Los Angeles, The New York Times would get upset and accuse him of anti-Semitism, until he swore — as the pope did — that you don’t have to be a Christian to go to heaven. Evangelize in Liberia, and the Times’ Nicholas Kristof will be totally impressed.

Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”

Coulter cannot see value beyond her own field of work, debating political and sociological philosophy and actions.  She is blinded by what Jacques Ellul called the “political illusion,” the misguided belief that all ills have political solutions. Her criticism of selfless faithfulness to God demonstrates an ignorance of Christian calling and spiritual gifts and is the worst form of narcissism of the political class.

Brantly’s work with Samaritan’s Purse and Writebol’s with the mission organization SIM was not an escape from more difficult, more important work (culture warfare in NY or LA, I guess). And it certainly was not a play for headlines in the NY Times. Coulter clearly hasn’t spent much time with Christian missionaries, among the most selfless and anonymous miracle workers in the world. Brantly and Writebol believed they were called by God to use their medical knowledge and skills to serve in areas of the world with unbelievable health crises.  They responded in obedience to God, and they responded with their gifts and skills.

Shame on Coulter and others who have disparaged them for their service, even as they risked their lives to save the lives of others.  Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are heroes of faith and faithfulness.

Dr. Brantly wrote in a statement this weekend:

“As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery. More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances.”

Ann Coulter, you owe these dedicated missionaries an apology.  And you owe it to yourself to spend a few weeks among the poorest of the poor.  Sorry, you won’t find them here in America, so you’ll need to pack your bags.

–Jim Jewell

 

Posted in Christianity, Communications, Compassion Ministries, Culture, Evangelicals, International aid, Jim Jewell, Nonprofit organizations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment