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Monday, April 11, 2005


last time

When I walked into the kitchen this morning and saw that straw sticking out of a too-short cup, my first thought was, That is absolutely the last time I buy straws.

They irritate me. I don't know why. I suppose I could trace it back to those curly, loop-de-loop straws I bought way back when the kids were younger. I wanted them to like the straws, but not so much that they'd actually use them. Because if they used them, say, for milk, then I'd have to be diligent about cleaning them. You can't procrastinate your dish washing when you've got milk-coated curly straws waiting in the sink.

Of course, the kids did use them--all the time, and for every conceivable liquid. And occasionally I didn't clean them in a timely fashion. Then I'd have to pour boiling water down that minuscule hole, squish the sides of the hot straws as the water raced through the curves, and hope no deadly and/or disgusting bacteria lingered somewhere inside.

The curly straws disappeared one day. No one knows what happened.

I switched to cheap, straight straws--and a different irritation. Now I didn't have to worry about bacteria, because these were cheap enough to throw away. I just didn't like the fact that Zac, in particular, likes to use a new straw for every sip of water he takes throughout the day. And he seems to take a special delight in using them in the shortest cups he can find, which means they're always leaning out over the edge of the cup, making it easy for someone--Mom, maybe--to accidentally bump the tip and send it catapulting out of the cup.

So, yes, this morning I felt irritated. I stood looking at the evidence of Zac's last sip and I thought, This is the last straw.

And right then, because He loves my children and me, God brought to mind the words of Tammy Courson, a pastor's wife I heard speak at a conference two years ago.

Jon and Tammy had five children: three from Jon's first marriage, and two together. Jon's first wife died in a car accident when their three children were very young. Of those three, Jessie was the oldest girl. Not only was she beautiful and smart, but she had a spiritual depth most adults don't possess. She'd be at a retreat with the high school kids, and during a discussion she'd say, "You know, the other day while reading about the seven bowl judgments in Revelation, it occurred to me how well they coordinate with the last words of Christ on the cross," or something equally deep. One night her father teased her. "Jessie, the hardest thing ahead of us is going to be finding a husband for you who is more spiritually mature than you are."

The day after that conversation, the kids had a scheduled day off of school. Jessie decided to drive over to the church and take communion before she started her day. Her dad was happy to see her there, and touched when, after communion, she stood and shared a verse. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer 29:11). When she finished, she looked at her dad and winked. What she didn't know was that God had spoken that very verse to Jon during the ambulance ride to the hospital with his dying wife, Jessie's mother, some fifteen years earlier. That verse had been God's way of letting Jon know that God would bring good out of that tragedy and would walk with Jon during the hard times.

Jessie left then and went home to ask her brother, Peter-John, if he wanted to go out for breakfast with her. Peter-John said later that he doesn't know why he declined, but for some reason he said no. Jessie then went into the kitchen to say good bye to Tammy.

"You look so beautiful today," Tammy told her daughter. Then she gave her a kiss and a hug, and they exchanged "I love you's."

Jessie left the house. Just two minutes later, rounding a curve on the road, Jessie was involved in a car accident ... and died.

At the memorial, Jon told of the conversation he and his daughter had shared the night before her death. He talked about the man he'd hoped Jessie would find, the man who would be more spiritually mature than she, the man who could lead her. And then he held up a ring belonging to Jessie, which they hadn't been able to find in the car initially, but which someone brought him just before the service started.

"One of the things I have most looked forward to, as a pastor and father, is being able to officiate at the wedding of my daughter. And today, I am doing so. Today, my Jessie has found that Man to lead her. Today, my daughter is the bride of Christ."

I have known of Jessie's life and death for many years, but it wasn't until Tammy Courson stood before me at that conference and shared her message that I really understood the story from a mother's perspective.

"There's a last time for everything with our children," she said. "There was a last hair cut for my son, Ben. After that, he never asked again. There was a last time I watched my youngest daughter swirl in her tutu, because after that, she put away her ballet clothes and stopped dancing. And there was a last time ..." Tammy fought tears as she tried to finish, "... there was a last time when I told my daughter Jessie how beautiful she was, and a last time I hugged her and told her I loved her."

Her grief broke my heart. It was impossible not to cry with her, impossible not to let my thoughts jump to my own children, and what I'd feel if I were recounting my "lasts."

"You never know when that last time comes," Tammy said, "so make sure you appreciate the moments you have now."

Remembering her words, I stood in the kitchen staring at that red-and-white straw sticking out of Zac's too-short cup, and I thanked God for breaking my heart again.

My son can use all the straws he wants.

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27 Comment:

At 4/11/2005 9:55 AM, Anonymous Sharon Goemaere had this to say ...

Shannon:
I am seldom at a loss for words.But all I can say is WOW!I think I would have liked Jessie.Have a blessed day Shannon.
Much warm love,Sharon

 
At 4/11/2005 10:05 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

I think you would have liked her, too, Sharon.

A few months after Jessie died, her parents received a letter in the mail from her. She had written it and given it to her youth pastor during a New Year's Eve get-together, when all the kids were supposed to write what they wanted to happen in the coming year. Jon and Tammy opened that letter and read, "I want to go home and be with Jesus." And that's exactly what happened.

 
At 4/11/2005 10:40 AM, Blogger Teresa had this to say ...

Wow, I guess that is all I can say as well. I have struggled greatly with letting go of my 19 year old son and I posted about it recently. My 8 year old has that type of grasp on heaven, but my 19 year old son does not. Anyway, I could go on forever, so thanks for the blessing!

 
At 4/11/2005 10:59 AM, Anonymous Sharon Goemaere had this to say ...

Shannon,
My,my,my,my,my....that gave me goosebumps and made me want to cry too.That girl was ready to be with her Lord.Wow.I was pondering this morning in the shower how some saints go home"early"in life(early by our standards).I had just finished reading a book by Rich Mullins"The World As I Remember It".He went on to glory in 1997 I think due to a car crash.He was only about 40 or so.As I pondered this I thought"early graduation".He was ready and God said"C'mon home son,I have need of you here."Sounds to me like Jessie was ready for"early graduation"too.Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of one of His saints.Love you Shannon.
YSIC,Sharon

 
At 4/11/2005 11:05 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Hello Teresa! Thanks for visiting ... and writing. :) When I'm not trying to finish six tasks at once, I'll be sure to go read your post about your son. Sounds very familiar. Zac will be 16 in a few weeks, but I'm already thinking ahead to that time when I have to let him go. Lord, help me!

Sharon, if you haven't already done so, I want to recommend another book about Rich Mullins. It's called An Arrow Pointing to Heaven: The Biography of Rich Mullins. It's in my top 3 books of all time. He was quite an example.

 
At 4/11/2005 6:41 PM, Blogger Linda had this to say ...

Such Wisdom

 
At 4/11/2005 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Shannon:
It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear that story. It never fails to stop me and give thanks to God for the gifts He gave me in my children.
Cora

 
At 4/11/2005 7:25 PM, Anonymous blueskelton had this to say ...

Love straws myself couldnt live without them

 
At 4/11/2005 7:41 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Okay, I can't stop crying! That is so precious and bittersweet.

I remember when I was about 9 or 10, we were at Wednesday night service at Harvest and the associate pastor's daughter (Toby Havsgaard) accidentally crossed the street on a red light and was killed. We were all shocked. It was so tragic. I think Paul Havsgaard and his wife, Kathy, now work as missionaries with street kids in Romania.

I haven't had a chance to blog lately, but it is so strange how the things I've thought of blogging are so closely tied into your posts...

 
At 4/12/2005 2:43 AM, Blogger Amie had this to say ...

this is really a nice post! it made me remember my mom....the last time she was with us before she passed away. yap cherished all the time you have with all your love ones because you'll never know if it will be the last time.

 
At 4/12/2005 9:31 AM, Blogger Jennifer had this to say ...

I am overcome with grief today. Tried for two days not to cry but this post was the last straw! I know it's our tears that cleanse us, and draws the wings of our Heavenly Father close around us. Thank you.

 
At 4/12/2005 10:16 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

WOW what a powerfully written piece to make us listen and realize that we really never know when it might be the last. When my kids were really little and I was commuting 45 km's each way, I always made sure I gave them a goodbye hug and kiss before I left, just in case.....even if it woke them up, I never wanted them to think that Dad didnt love them. Thanks for the memories....

 
At 4/12/2005 11:54 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thanks, Linda and Cora.

Kim--I'm looking forward to more posts from you! Get blogging, girl!

Amie and Joe, I'm glad this brought back good memories.

Blueskelton ... what can I say? You're my son's kindred spirit.

Jennifer, I'm so sorry you've had a tough few days. Don't hold those tears in. You're so right about them cleansing us. Tears are a gift, so I'm glad you were able to cry today. I'm praying for you.

 
At 4/12/2005 5:42 PM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

Shannon, thank you so much for this timely post. Not only timely in your situation with Zac and the straws but timely after the weekend I had with my little girl.
Thank you.

 
At 4/13/2005 11:39 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

*blush* okay shanny...

 
At 12/08/2009 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

I found this blog after listening to a teaching by Jon Courson where he mentioned Jessie and I wanted to know what happened. Thank you for posting it. It is so true about cherishing every moment with our loved ones. I did not do it with my mom and she went so suddenly. How foolish to think we have time... now is the time.

If you want to be blessed, listen to Jon Courson's teaching of Ephesians on www.blueletterbible.org

Again thank you, and be blessed!

Rotem

 
At 2/28/2012 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

I know all the basics of this story are true, but I don't think sweet Jessie's accident was near the site of her mom Terry's accident. I believe Jessie's was close to home and Terry's was on a short get-a-way trip with Jon.

 
At 2/28/2012 4:17 PM, Anonymous Shannon Woodward had this to say ...

Thank you for letting me know that ... I'll change it right away. It sounds like you knew Jessie. From everything I've heard about her, I wish I'd known her too.

 
At 2/28/2012 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

I didn't know her, but I have known many people in her family. Jon and Terry were headed to Bend, Oregon, the day of their accident in 1982. I think you would enjoy Jon's book "A Place For You... Reflections on Heaven". His messages can be heard on the internet at Applegate Christian Fellowship.

 
At 2/29/2012 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Yes, kind and loving, for sure. Tonight we're headed out to hear Jessie's Dad, Jon, continue his verse to verse study of walking through the Bible. We are in Numbers now. Are you in Oregon?

 
At 2/29/2012 5:05 PM, Blogger Shannon had this to say ...

I think my husband might have that book in his library ... I'll check tonight at church.

No, we're in Marysville, WA (my husband pastors the Calvary Chapel there.) Jon was the first CC pastor we heard. He was the speaker at our worship retreat about 25 years ago when we were at another church. We had no idea where he was from until many years later when we saw his name on a list of CC churches. We love Jon.

Enjoy the study tonight! :)

 
At 3/01/2012 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Yes, Jon is a very gifted teacher of the Word. When he finishes a 90 minute message, we never want him to stop. We then listen to his messages for a few days at home & take more notes. We hope to go to Israel this summer; he will be leading the group. May God bless your ministry in Washington.

 
At 3/03/2013 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Hi my name is Tony im from East Africa in Kenya and i love this blog anyway ive been listening to Jon Courson for like 6 years and God used him to talk to me i would like to know more about him kindly inbox me here in my e-mail adress estone491@yahoo.com how can i contact pastor Jon?

 
At 8/02/2013 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

This is so touching. I'm really moved at how such a young lady had loved the Lord with all her everything and all she longed for was to be with Him. I long for that with all my heart, soul and strength.

 
At 9/25/2015 9:53 PM, Blogger Tim Russell had this to say ...

"I want to go home and be with Jesus." - Written in a letter shortly before passing, and mailed to her parents, John and Tammy, shortly after. Do you have the courage to see this for what it really is? This was most likely a suicide note. I attended Cascade Christian High School in 1994-1995 with the Courson kids, Peter-John, Jessie (Kindest I person I ever met. She loved everyone equally.) I am also the child of a pastor, and I can tell you one thing for certain. Religion is Poison. I hope that all of us learn to love each other and take care of each other for our own sake, not because we need a divine directive to do so. I hope that all of us utilize reason when processing reality, and seek psychological assistance when processing trauma. I still miss Jessie.

 
At 4/18/2016 4:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Most likely Tim? Wow, I am so sorry you feel this way but you have made a judgement. So sorry you had a bad experience as a PK but not all PKS see what you saw. You need a personal relationship with Christ. He can heal your past and be the Father you need.

 
At 5/03/2017 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

My 4 yr old said he wanted to go live with Jesus after he drowned. Yes, after...he said the man said he needed to go back home. God allowed him to come back to us after being dead for over 30 minutes. I know that he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ even at that young age and that is the reason why he wants to go live with Jesus Christ.

 

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