The following letter is one I wrote for Beth's family after she passed away. I gave them the option of reading it at her memorial service, or just reading it among the family. I got a quick note from Tony, her husband, and I *think* they read it during the service.
I wanted to post it here -- because it's a tribute to a remarkable woman. A mentor. A friend. A mother. A wife.
Here it is. . . It's torture to post it and not "re-edit" it. So, I'm going to change the font, type color, and leave it at that. (Really, I am!)
Dear Tony, Florence, Jenni, Melinda, Mary, Katherine, Emily and Hannah. . . .
How I wish I could be with you today. My heart, for the last four years, has longed to visit Thunder Bay where I could experience the phenomenon that was Valerie Beth Cain. What a lifeforce!
Over the past couple weeks, I struggled with the fact that I’d one day write this letter. I anguished over finding the right words. How would I describe Beth? How in the world would I be able to express my feelings? I concluded that the only way to “sum up” my friendship with Beth would be to talk about her names. . .
Wife – I will always cherish her descriptions of you, Tony. I loved the way she would write about songs you had written. . . your expressions of praise to God were always such a source of joy for her. And, her brilliant way with words always made us feel like we were part of your precious relationship – even though we were miles away.
Daughter – Her love and admiration for you, Florence, truly inspired me. She worried about you. She respected and revered you. She admired you. She celebrated you. And, her memories and stories of her childhood always gave me such vivid images of life and joy. And, her love of hospitality and entertaining is something for which I know you are very proud.
Mommy – One of my favorite scrapbook layouts is the one where she tells about Melinda’s determination to call Beth “Mommy” for the rest of her life. She loved each one of you girls with all of her heart – you know that. She knew your strengths and celebrated them. She knew your weaknesses, and prayed diligently for you to overcome those weaknesses, and to learn more about your Heavenly Father through struggles and adversity. She was so very proud of you. To hear her talk (or write) about each one of you makes me feel like I already know you. I can tell each of you that over the past four years, when you were facing a struggle, she would write to me – sometimes with details, sometimes not – and ask me to pray for you. This was an honor. It will remain my honor to hold you before the Throne until the day I die. As a tribute to your mom, this is my promise.
Adopted Aunt – Sometime in 2006, she decided to become an “aunt” to my two children: Edison & Caroline. C*line, as she would call her – held a special place in her heart – in the same way Jenni holds a special place in my heart. Her immediate, strong, fierce love for my children absolutely blew me away. And, don’t get me started about the scrapbook layouts she created of Caroline. As we “adopted” each others’ children, the bond between us became even more like a sister relationship. I look forward to opportunities in the future, when I can tell Caroline about her “Auntie Beth,” who loved her without ever meeting her.
Prayer Warrior – Just yesterday, I realized how much I had come to rely on Beth as my prayer warrior, and how much she regarded me as her warrior. She held me up in prayer in 2008, as I faced the threat of cancer. Talk about tireless prayers. . . she never stopped. We went from “Plan A” to “Plan B” and she was committed to go to “Plan Z” if that was God’s will. That’s a prayer warrior. So, last month, when she called to tell me about the 3-6 month prognosis, she pleaded with me to “wrestle with God” on her behalf. Of course, I agreed. I’m not sure I lived up to her request, but I knew that her pleas for me to pray for her were genuine, and that I had an obligation to repeatedly go to the Throne on her behalf.
Friend – I have had friends pass away – but with Beth, I’m sure many people would agree, it was different. Beth was a friend like no other I’ve known. She somehow managed to get to know me in a very, very short time. After just a few months, I felt like I’d known her all my life. And after four years, she became the older sister I never had. Though I miss her with all of my heart, the fact that she is singing and dancing before in the very presence of God – celebrating the joy of her salvation, and enjoying the eternity we are all anticipating – well, I wouldn’t want to take that away from her. She has encouraged me – through her valiant fight and strong faith in the midst of utter pain & heartbreak – to emulate her. She has given all of us the most wonderful, courageous example of someone who fought the good fight and remained faithful to the very end.
Over the last four years, she made me promise a variety of things. I was to pray daily for the future spouse of my son. I was to continue to express myself artistically. I was to set the bar high for Caroline – and bring out the very best in her. And, in our last conversation, she made me promise not to let go of you girls. I promised her that I would not – and that is a promise that I will keep.
Jenni, Melinda, Mary, Katherine, Emily, and Hannah – I know you have aunts & uncles. You have cousins, friends, an amazing church family, and an extended, blended family that loves you. But now, I want you to remember, because of your precious, funny, wonderful mommy, you also have an aunt, uncle, and two cousins living in Tennessee that absolutely adore you. You are our family. We love you.
Angie, Mark, Edison, and Caroline (C*line)
. . .and as Forrest Gump would say: "That's about all I have to say about that."
(I love you, Beth!)