My Tribute to my Beloved Wife, Roxanne
Sep 22, 2013
The following is a slightly revised version of the words I spoke at the memorial service for Roxanne on Monday, September 9, 2013. Rather than split this up into several posts, I decided to post the entire writing at once both for continuity sake in the story, and because I will be extraordinarily busy the next few days preparing for the Conference.
My Tribute to my Beloved Wife, Roxanne
In a few minutes or a few words, I cannot adequately sum up Roxanne’s life—or salute her with the kind of tribute I would like to, and that she so richly deserves. Her passing happened so suddenly, and ever since about 6:30 Thursday evening [September 5, 2013], my time has been filled with a blur and a flurry of activity in doing the things necessary to bring us to this memorial and celebration service. So I can only share a few things with you that the paltry time has allowed.
You will notice that I am using notes—it’s practically scripted. You might think, Could I not speak off the cuff and from the heart about her? Roxanne placed a high value on speaking from the heart.
Oh, yes, I could speak for hours about her, if this were a very tiny, private gathering…and I have been doing that with a few of you at our house the past few days. But that is the point. Roxanne was a very, very private person.
I have sought to honor her wishes in that respect and therefore, if I were not using notes, if I were speaking extemporaneously, I might say things which in retrospect I might regret sharing with all of you who did not know her. Not that there are any big secrets to reveal; it is just that she was such a private person, and in this tribute I am still trying to honor her wishes.
[Explanatory note: Roxanne expressed to me circa 1993, that she and our children would no longer travel with me to my many meetings and conferences. It was too taxing on her, both physically and mentally-emotionally—as I will detail in a moment. She stated that the ministry was my work, that she never wanted to be a “ministers’ wife” because of the expectations which “the flock” would put on her. She chose not to accept that role. Her job, she stated was to manage the home and educate the children (i.e., home schooling). While I was disappointed in 1993 that we could not be “partners in ministry,” I respected her decision and did my best to honor it.]
And isn’t it remarkable? So very many of you here at this service did not know her at all on a personal level, or it was a long time ago, or a some of you have had just a few interactions with her. And I want to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to all of you for coming to this service despite the fact that you may not have known her very well personally. I and my family are deeply honored by that. What you may not have known about this very private person was that she laid down her life for others. Jesus said of Himself in …
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The Savior also taught his disciples to emulate Him. My own sense is that laying down one’s life for one’s friends would certainly include, first and foremost, one’s own family.
So if a person loves others so much that she is willing to lay down her life for them, is that person not indeed truly a follower of Jesus the Christ? Yes, indeed. And that was that woman I knew and cherished and loved these past 40 and a half years.
In certain ways, she laid down her life for each of the members of our family. Time will not allow me to detail each of us. She laid down her life for me in so many ways. When we met, I had just got out of the Air Force and was a freshman at Ohio State. I went to school fulltime and worked part time, but she held down a full time job at the OSU Teaching Aids Laboratory so that I could complete my degree. Plus, she tended to all the needs of her then 3-year-old son, Chris, who in a short time became my adopted son, whom I have always preferred to call by his first name, David. I love you dearly, David.
After I graduated, she said she would prefer to quit her outside job and focus her life on raising David and other children which we both wanted to have.
She and I were unconventional from the start. We were mavericks. Thus, when we got married, it was not in a church, but rather in the Park of Roses in Columbus, Ohio. You will have noticed some of the photos of our wedding in the visitation room [at the funeral home].
So after I was working and she became pregnant we explored options and decided that she would want to give birth in the most natural method possible. In 1977, home births were virtually non-existent, but there were Lamaze classes and the University hospital did say they had a natural birthing room.
It did not go exactly as planned in the birthing process and our first daughter, Sarah Bethany, became the prime focus of Roxanne’s life for the next 13 years until Sarah’s passing in 1990. [The details of that story are given in my CDs #257 & 258 Could You Forgive God? My Personal Testimony on Forgiveness. Free upon request. Please include $4 shipping and handling. Order from PO Box 5695, Asheville, NC 28813.]
Meanwhile, Roxanne had given birth to Emily and Lisa. Roxanne shared with me on numerous occasions in the past few years how she felt so badly that she was not able to give these two precious daughters all the care and nurturing that she had wanted to, simply because of the extraordinarily taxing and stressful job of trying to keep Sarah alive. [David was seven years older than Sarah and thus already a 20-year-old young man at Sarah’s death.]
But even with all those special needs of Sarah, Roxanne chose—beginning in about 1984—to be the school teacher for all the children. Roxanne had studied, deliberated and pondered the pros and cons of home schooling for well over a year before making her decision.
But when she finally made the decision to go forward with it, she did it with unmatched passion and vigor and excellence. I often told her how proud I was of her and the job that she had done raising the children, especially with the enormous additional task of homeschooling them.
Due to Sarah’s situation, and in the last several years before Sarah’s passing, Roxanne was the 24/7 caregiver for Sarah. This took its toll severely on Roxanne’s health. She continued to give when there was nothing in reserve to give from. She was laying down her life for Sarah.
So it was an extremely challenging and difficult job to home school the children… Not only because of Sarah’s situation, but because of the fact that when you have that many children, all at different grade levels, and you are teaching each of them individually all their subjects, that is a massive undertaking.
Then add to that the fact that in doing home schooling we were mavericks again. It was so uncommon nationally that it was illegal in most states, including Florida where we were living at the time.
But there was a lawyer in Florida who had left behind a very lucrative law practice and was helping home schooling families to become legal by setting up a private school and thus we became legal. That man and his wife have been dear friends of mine ever since and they have made the trip along with other friends from near Chattanooga to be here today. (Names withheld), thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
Roxanne had what the Bible describes as the “word of wisdom.” But that is not the gift which the Spirit gave her that I wish to focus on. Roxanne was empathic and an amazing judge of character. She also had what the Bible describes as the “word of knowledge.” And that gift, she had in an overwhelming measure. Let me explain.
In other words, she could walk into a room full of strangers and within minutes be able to “read” people. She could take me aside and tell me that that individual over there is a really good-hearted person or make some other favorable comment about that one.
Or she could point to another person and warn me to beware because that person is deeply troubled or is a nasty person or whatever. But that ability of hers went over my head. I did not “get it.”
Many years ago, when I would challenge her about her conclusion by saying something like, what reasons do you have for that conclusion, she could not give me concrete reasons, but, she said, I just know. And she did! Because invariably, over the course of time, as I watched the lives of those she had told me about, her intuition and impressions were right on the mark.
It took me many years to recognize and appreciate her amazing gift of the word of knowledge. Had I appreciated that and her gift of wisdom a lot sooner, our marriage would probably have avoided some of our more difficult trials and tests. But I could not see it and appreciate it at the time. And she was soooo patient with me. She never, ever “rubbed it in,” or made me feel stupid for not getting it.
Her gift was both a blessing and a burden to her. It made her very uncomfortable being in groups, even small groups. Hence, after a few years of traveling with me everywhere to where I was teaching in meetings, large and small, and she was taking care of our then young children, she one day said to me that that was my work and she would not travel with me anymore.
Gradually, my thick skull came to understand what a burden all of that was to her; not only to be taking care of the children in the meetings, but just the fact that her gift left her feeling overwhelmed with all the junk, all the subtle energy impressions of many people in the room.
I am sure that many people that met her in groups, large or small, would describe her as shy, but one would conclude that only because she was externally quiet, but meanwhile the internal energetic noise level was very high. Part of the burden was this: being unable to shut off the overwhelming noise of those impressions.
So in the past 20 years of my teaching work, when people wonder at conferences where is James’ wife, why doesn’t she travel with him—that is the reason. And that is one of the reasons why she is a very private person and did not want me to even bring her up in anecdotes or any other way in my work.
I occasionally slipped up and said things to good friends about her, with which—had she known—she would not have been pleased. And then there was once when I actually put in print a story in which she was involved—an astounding story which I may repeat in blogs soon to come.
In preparing this tribute to Roxanne, my daughters and I came to instant agreement that now that she is gone, that she would be just fine with our sharing about her. Not everything about her, mind you, but at least enough so that our friends—and even relatives—who did not know her, would be able to appreciate this outstanding woman, this remarkable example of a saint of the Most High God.
So while those who met her might judge her as very shy, I can also assure you that in one-on-one situations she was not the least bit shy. In fact, that is where she shone as brilliantly as the sun.
She could literally talk for hours at a stretch, telling me her thoughts and feelings and insights on whatever the subject. And I can honestly tell you that she was never boring. I was always interested and often amazed at her ability not only to perceive and comprehend issues on a very profound level, but I was always equally amazed by her ability to explain it all to me—often without a single written note.
In these last number of years, I often told her she could have been a superb attorney (not that I would ever have wanted her to be one) because once she was involved in an issue, she became so passionate, articulate, and she made the case with such compelling logic as well, that any attorney trying to argue the other side would have made a fool of himself trying to argue against her!
Spiritually, she did not need to be in a church building to feel in communion with God. She found that divine communion best in the quietness of nature. She loved gardens. For a number of years, she held a season pass to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and often went there just to be alone in its many acres of beautiful gardens.
As some of you here are aware, [and most of you reading this in my blog did not know] Roxanne asked me for a separation in 1999. I never wanted a divorce and I know now that she never did either, but she did need some total privacy at that time—even from me for a season. We were separated for almost exactly seven years. But although that seemed like an eternity to me, she and I communicated frequently by phone, sometimes for hours. In other words, we were on quite good terms with each other for much of that seven years. We “dated,” we saw each other several times a week in the last four or five years of the separation. We got back together on July 1, 2006.
As my study of God’s Word over many, many years led me to conclude with certainty that God would eventually save every human being to eternal life, I one day with great joy shared my conclusion with her. And when I did, I found her already there, waiting for me. As if with a big loving smile she was saying—what took you so long? I knew that all along!
But she was gracious and kind and understanding and patient with me because she knew that our paths to the Truth were different and that unlike her—a person who just knows—that I am the type who needs to see it make sense every step of the way, with every detail in its proper place, with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. She respected and honored my own need to find the truth in a step-by-step process… Whereas she simply knew and believed. It was the Spirit’s gift of the word of knowledge to her.
Since our coming back together in July of 2006, I feel that our souls and spirits have become more and more attuned to each other in an ever-increasing measure of mutual love. Not that we always agreed. We certainly had disagreements, but the heavenly Father has given us the grace to be more loving and kind and gentle with each other and to allow us to have differing opinions and yet continue loving one another.
These past couple of years, and especially these past few months, we laughed so much with each other. She really was quite a witty and funny person. Let me give you one example. From time to time we would share a dream one of us might have had.
We both understood that not all dreams are important. Some are “pizza and ice cream” dreams; i.e., they are caused by gastronomic disturbances of something we ate. Some dreams are “taking out the garbage” dreams; i.e., they are the mind’s means of processing the day’s activities and “cleaning up the house” of the mind. And occasionally God speaks to us in dreams, as He has done for millennia.
So just a few weeks ago, she asked me if I had been having any dreams lately. None that I can recall, I told her. How about you, I asked. Yes, I have been remembering many dreams recently, she responded.
Well, I queried, are they good dreams, bad dreams or neutral dreams? Oh, some of each, she replied. (And all this conversation was in the form of light-hearted banter, semi-teasing one another.)
Well, I asked with mock seriousness, am I in any of them? (…as though to emphasize my own importance, and she understood my self-deprecation via pseudo-pride.) She had a twinkle in her eye and a slight grin as she did not miss a beat, responding immediately with “You’re only in the bad ones.” We had wonderful belly laughs at that for several minutes.
Our 40th wedding anniversary was July 21st. On that day, we were having some loving conversation and reminiscing about our struggles and trials these past 40 years. And I shared the point with her that in the Bible the symbolic meaning of the number 40 is probation, trials and testing—as in the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.
Roxanne and I agreed that we had certainly had our share of trials and testing and I asked her this question, fully knowing that we both knew the answer. I said: The 40 years of our testing is over. Do you think we passed the test? And with a wonderful glowing smile, she said, “Yes, we certainly did!”
I nodded my agreement and I truly thought to myself that now that the testing period was over, that she and I would be able to bask in our love together for quite a while to come. I had also told her on our 40th anniversary that I would marry her all over again, and more than that, I would love to spend an additional 40 years with her, if Father would grant us both such long life.
Little did I know that He would call her to rest before seven weeks had expired. So we were separated for seven years. Then back together in increasing happiness together for seven years, and in a little less than seven weeks, Father called her to Himself. In the Bible, the number seven is associated with completion or perfection and therefore, 777 is a triple measure of perfection.
Roxanne was one of the purest souls I have ever known and she had a spirit to match. Father has declared her work in this life complete and as close to perfection in this life as necessary for His plan for her. Through my abundance of sorrows and tears [and sobbing again as I revise this for my blog], I yield her back to Him who created her and gave her to me for 40 years. Thank you, my Father, for those 40 years.
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