Five feet to my left is the doorway Tasha stood in when she received the horrible news that her mother passed away. That memory will always haunt me.
At that moment I was scheduling my next day on my Palm Pilot. I dropped that right when I saw my wife, Tasha, standing in the doorway with a look on her face that no one ever wants to see. It ws only fitting that I dropped my schedule, because no one could have scheduled the news that Dede, her mother, would pass, a very healthy 45-year-old woman.
Living in Clarksville, Tennessee, when Dede lived in Minnesota, made this tragedy only all the more anguishing. Words cannot express the pain, agony and shock that night. I have never experienced shock of that level, and I can’t even fathom how much worse it was for Tasha, who was raised by her.
We booked the first flight from Nashville to Minneapolis and we stayed up all night, with a small exception of 20 minutes of sleep on the plane. Both of us hoped it was only a dream, but we really were on a plane to Minnesota. I held on tight to Tasha as much as I could, holding myself and Tasha together with everything I had.
The reality of it all came and went, but it really started once we landed. Tasha’s sweet sister, Danielle, was waiting at the airport to pick us up. She and Tasha, less than two years apart, had been through a lot over the years alongside their mother, and their first embrace showed ever bit of it.
We soon saw Ed, Dede’s husband, who is one of the strongest men I know. Ed and Dede had an amazing relationship, one she wanted all her life. She had finally found the love of a lifetime. Ed gave everything he had to the marriage, as any husband should. He always was a true inspiration for myself. Ed held himself together for the family’s sake, but he also allowed himself to be vulnerable.
The family soon came together. That’s what family is for. In an awful tragedy like this, one that is completely beyond words, family lifts each other up. There wasn’t a family member that wasn’t distraught, that didn’t weep at one time or another, but no one ever said “why me?” Everyone said, “why you?” Everyone was there for each other.
My mother-in-law was an amazing woman. My own mother was absolutely right, she may have only been in my life for a few years, but she will continue to influence me for the rest of my life. The Bible tells us that we reap what we sow, and if you saw the support our family received this week, it was only one more piece of evidence that Dede sowed A LOT. Dede was one of the most giving people I’ve ever met.
She would always tell us that you have to play the hand you are dealt, and she did just that. Rarely were her circumstances ideal, but she, too, never said “why me?” She just applied herself to the task at hand.
Dede was a member of a church in the community, and though she had only been attending there for a handful of years, observers could easily conceive she had been attending for 20 or 30. Her church community came to the rescue in ways I’d never seen. Dede also gave incredibly to the community, particularly in the arts, and the entire Rockford, Minnesota community gave back in a major way. She gave herself to her family as well, and, believe me, now this family is asking, “what can I do?” Members of this family are applying themselves in order to fill Dede’s big, big shoes.
I had to leave the family last night. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I witnessed some things this week that I never saw before, acts of love and giving that will forever be etched in my mind. I had also never seen such a turnout for a memorial service where I heard God glorified so much. We thanked the Lord that we were gifted with such a beautiful woman in our lives, and we were happy for Dede, because she was finally home with the God she so readily served.
It really opened people’s eyes. Dede’s brother was telling me just today he was really starting to see things differently. He said he looked around the church during the memorial, which was filled beyond capacity, and he wondered how many people would be at his. “I probably couldn’t fill two or three rows,” he said. He wondered if he needed to start doing something to change that.
We wonder why things like this ever happen, and even if we think we find a reason, it still doesn’t suffice. We miss Dede with all of our hearts. But one thing is true: she’s still influencing us. She’s showing us all new ways to love people, and that means everyone. She’s reminding us that we have to play the hands we are dealt. She is telling us what directions to go in, and in that wonderful Minnesotan accent that we so greatly miss.
We miss Deanna Stevens with all our hearts. We love you, Dede.