And then May came . . .

27 05 2009

Since last May 7, we have been looking ahead to this May with a bit of dread.  We heard pretty early on from others who had lost children that the first year is the most difficult because you are passing through all of life’s markers without your child for the first time.  Each holiday or event is another reminder that your family is three and not four.  The first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday.  And then comes the first anniversary of the death of the child.  “Does it get better after the first year?”  we would ask those who were giving us their insights.  “Oh no.  It will always be painful, but you get better at living with that pain and loss after you have two or three birthdays under your belt.”  Others tell us that the bitterness and pain fades over time and is replaced by good memories of the loved one.  Bless them.  I am not there yet.  I don’t mean the good memories, they are always there.  But even the good memories–and perhaps mostly the good memories–bring pain.

This May was not the May we anticipated, however.  The brief illness and passing of my mother deflected much of our attention from Anna.  On the other hand, the passing of my mother brought the anniversary of the death of Anna into sharp focus for us.  It forced us to think about Anna’s death not as an isolated event, or something that touched only us.  Instead we learned more about Anna’s death by watching and experiencing the death of my mother.  The two events were so different and yet the same ultimate reality lay beneath the two.  Life here is not permanent.  It may be measured in months, years, or decades, but make no mistake, it is measured.  And that measure will come to an end.

In Anna, we saw a young girl who, although she had no conscious idea that her bicycle ride that Wednesday afternoon would be her last moment here on earth, nonetheless had an awareness and knowledge of the issues of life and death.  She spoke often of death, not in morbid terms though with a touch of fear, and she knew that death was gain for the one who is counted as a child of God.

In my mother, we saw an old woman, full of years, but still loving life and active.  We saw a woman who was given news about her cancer and received it as good news that her time here was over and she would soon be with the Lord.  My family may disagree with this, I don’t know, but it seemed to me that my mom gave a kind of half-hearted fight to beat the cancer.  I think she was doing it for our sakes.  She may have felt a bit like Lazarus being called from the grave.  “You mean I have to die a second time, Lord?”  I think she was ready to face death.  My mom’s life was not always the easiest.  She grew up in a very poor family in Missouri during the depression.  I think her poverty and “show me” Missouri mentality gave her a seriousness and a sense of acceptance about life that served her well in those last days.

We passed through last November and December and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas without Anna.  We looked ahead to her birthday in March and then to May 7.  But before we got to either of those we received the news of my mom.  So March and April we all rightly turned our gaze to my mother as we helped her to navigate those last weeks in and out of the hospital.  And then May came and five days before the day of Anna’s passing my mother went to join her.  And two days after the day of Anna’s passing we were in church again remembering my mother.  In between those two days we had a moment to catch our breath and think about the events of the past year.

I don’t know what the next year holds.  In fact, that very question has been troubling us for some time now.  But the word of God is true.  And as I look back on this past year, which has seen such turmoil and disruption, I can only think of the words of God to Israel through the prophet Joel, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”  Anna resurget.  Maranatha.





Misplaced Sadness and the Joy of the Truth

22 05 2009

The death of my mother this month has been a different experience for me than the death of my daughter a year ago this month.  The death of my mother just a few days before the first anniversary of my daughter’s death has given me ample opportunity to reflect again on the lessons of life and death.

As we prepared for my mother’s memorial service I caught myself thinking, “Anna would have wanted to be here,” or “I wonder how Anna would have been taking all of this.”  Anna was very sensitive and the death of her grandmother would have devastated her.  Yet I know that she would have taken those deep emotions and integrated them into the rest of her life and I am sure that the death of her grandmother, whom she loved dearly, would have made her in some sense a better person.  I can only hope the same could be said of Timberley, Samuel, and me.

But as I reflected on those thoughts about Anna, and other similar thoughts about my mother [“She would have loved these flowers that so-and-so sent.”   “She would have loved to have heard the music sung and played or the poems and letters read at her memorial.”] I realized the silliness of my thoughts.  Would Anna really want to step away from the presence of her Lord, whom she loved more than her grandmother, more than life itself, in order to rejoin the land of the living and mourn the death of her grandmother?  I hardly think so.  Would my mother, whose ship has now sailed and who is now resting peacefully with her Lord and awaiting his second coming, would she want to re-animate her old and suffering body in order to hear the songs and poems of her grandchildren?  As much as I love my son and my nephews and nieces, again I hardly think so.

And so we are left with this sadness.  But why are we sad?  Too often, I find that I am sad for Anna’s sake.  Timberley recently observed that Anna had not experienced springtime in Kentucky since she was old enough to have long-term memories.  When we returned to the US in 2006 for our first stateside assignment, she had no memories of the United States and could not even remember many of her relatives.  Indonesia does not have a springtime like we have in the US.  Our thoughts quickly and naturally went to the conclusion, “Anna should be here to see the tulips and crocuses.  She is missing out on something beautiful.”  At those unguarded moments, I will only speak for myself and not for my wife, my lack of faith is revealed.  I forget that Anna’s situation is so far superior to anything that we might be experiencing here that there is no real comparison to be made.  She is experiencing reality and truth.  We are living in the shadows.  She has left the cave to see the strong light outside, and we are beckoning her to come back inside.  How frail is our faith at times.

The salve for that lack of faith is to know the truth.  We need to know God’s word about the fate of the faithful saints who have died.  Sometimes it is helpful to hear those truths put in different words.  Last year Timberley, Samuel, and I had an opportunity to go to Chicago and see Anna’s and our favorite band, Switchfoot, in concert.  It was a bittersweet experience, and the bitterness and the sweetness were very strong that night.  We had a five-hour trip home from Chicago to Louisville.  On the way we decided to listen to a recording of Max McLean  reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  [It turns out that the Chicago-Louisville trip fits the book exactly.  Try it out if you ever have a five-hour road trip ahead of you.]  The end of the book tells the story of Christian as he crosses over the river to enter the city of God.  Bunyan’s description, and McLean’s reading, so capture the happiness of Christian and his friend Hopeful as they pass this last obstacle on their journey to be with God, that we were almost bursting with the same joy and happiness.  It was a good salve for our souls at a time that we were saddened at Anna’s passing and sorely missing her presence.

Yesterday, my father was lamenting the loss of his wife of 57 years.  We sat in our living room and cried together.  I remembered the medicine and went to find the recording of John Bunyan.  I played just the last few chapters so my father could hear about Christian and Hopeful entering the Celestial City.  At the end, my father said softly, “Do you think that really happens?”  “I am sure that it is something very much like it,” I answered.





One Year Gone By

8 05 2009

september2006-186We are remembering today the first year since Anna’s death.

Today has been busy with the preparations for my mother’s funeral on Saturday so we have not really spent time together remembering Anna.  Instead we have checked in with one another from time to time, mentioning Anna or asking about certain memories.  The outward focus has rightly been on my mother and helping my father.  But in the background of everything is our memory of Anna.  The experience of losing Anna certainly clouds this new experience of losing my mother.  I don’t think it fair to say it has desensitized us, but I do believe that Timberley and I have approached her death with a realism that we would not have had before.  I am certain that in my own case my reflections on death and the resurrection have prepared me for answering certain questions about my mother’s sickness and death.  Of course, the whole experience of losing one’s parent is a wholly different experience than losing one’s child.  This week has not been as gut-wrenching as the week we had one year ago tonight.  Timberley reminded me of that while we were eating dinner this evening.  We were talking and joking about things.  Sometimes we spoke of Mom, sometimes we spoke of other things.  But everything, even the serious things, had a lightness about it.  Timberley leaned over to me and said, “Todd, do you remember the night after Anna died, how you felt like your heart had been ripped out, and everyone else was just walking around and talking about mundane things?  Look over at your dad.  I am sure he is feeling the same way now.”  I looked at my dad.  As we were all laughing about other things, my dad just sat and ate and looked at his food.  His other half is gone.  The one with whom he had become “one flesh” is gone, and so he is no longer one flesh, but what, just half a flesh?  Which half?  Left? Right?  Perhaps he is just the outside with nothing inside.  He is hollow and aching.  Or perhaps he is just the inside with no outside, raw and exposed to every passing intrusion.

the-kids-june-2005-007I received a letter–email actually, but letter sounds more human, less mechanical–from a friend who knew Anna perhaps better than anyone outside our family.  Their daughter was one of Anna’s best friends in Indonesia.  She was writing to tell us how they were remembering Anna’s passing on this one year anniversary.  They read Anna’s book aloud as a family.  They listened to Switchfoot.  They brought out things that Anna had given as gifts.  They have planted a memorial garden for Anna and they spent time in that garden.  I am really glad that on this day in which we are busy with other things, that other families are able to celebrate and remember the day in this way.

If you have young children, consider printing out Anna’s book and reading it together with your children.  Read some of the stories about her and what others have written about her.  Think about the example that Anna set as she followed Christ and use her as an example for your children to follow, or for yourselves to follow.

In preparing for this day we thought about putting something in the newspaper as a remembrance of Anna.  This was what I wrote.  I asked Timberley if was too “high-school-yearbookish” but as I told Timberley I was trying for something that had the character of Anna, something light and playful but serious at the same time.

Anna Christine Borger (March 29, 1999-May 7, 2008)
We wish to remember Anna Christine Borger on the first year after her death.
She gave freely.
She loved deeply.
She played happily.
She sang joyfully.
Anna, do you still have your eyes wide?
It’s not over yet!  Jesus is coming soon!
Anna resurget. Anna will rise again.

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Deloris Borger, Feb. 13, 1929-May 2, 2009

5 05 2009

Deloris Joyce Borger, 80, of Riverbank passed away quietly at home on the evening of Saturday, May 2, 2009.  She had fought a brief bout with cancer.  Although death claimed victory in this battle, the final victory has already been won by the Lord.  Deloris is in the presence of her Lord now.  She is awaiting, along with the rest of the saints, her final resurrection at Jesus’ second coming.  She is a member of Orangeburg Avenue Baptist Church of Modesto, CA.

She is survived by her husband of 57 years, Richard Borger, along with three sons and their wives, Richard and Dianna Borger of Modesto, David and Patricia Borger of St. Charles, IL, and Todd and Timberley Borger of Louisville, KY.  She is also survived by grandchildren and step-grandchildren Krislynne Wallace of Modesto; Emily, Michael, and Nicholas Borger of St. Charles, IL; and Samuel Borger of Louisville, KY.  She is survived by her sister Alice West of Santa Clarita, CA.  She was preceded in death by her brother, James Neblett, and sister, Leola Wymer.  She was also preceded in death by her granddaughter, Anna Borger.

Deloris was born in Joplin, MO and graduated from Joplin High School in 1947.  She married Richard Borger in 1952 and moved with him to his home state of California where they spent the rest of their lives.  They lived in Southern California where their three sons were born until 1971, when they moved to the San Francisco area.  From 1973 until 2005 they lived in Half Moon Bay, CA.  They then moved to their final home together in Riverbank, CA.  Deloris worked in several jobs during her life, but she spent the most time as an employee of the Cabrillo Unified School District in Half Moon Bay, CA.

Deloris is greatly loved by her family and friends and will be missed.  She was kind and loving.  She was part of a quilting group that made quilts for cancer patients.  Special quilts were frequent Christimas gifts to children and grandchildren.  Richard and Deloris shared many things together, but they especially loved traveling.  Together they visited all 50 states.  They rode by motorcycle to Canada.  They traveled by RV to Alaska.  They traveled to Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia.  Their favorite vacation place was Hawaii.

Deloris will most be remembered as a woman who loved her family, took care of her husband, and raised three good sons.  She will be remembered as a loving and caring grandmother who was always ready to play another game with the grandchildren.  She will be remembered as a faithful and dependable woman.  She will also be remembered as adventurous and spontaneous.  We love you, Deloris.  We love you, Mom.  We love you, Grandma.

A memorial service will be held at Orangeburg Avenue Baptist Church, 313 East Orangeburg Avenue, Modesto, CA 95350, Phone: (209) 577-2575.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the church in memory of Deloris.  Donations made to Orangeburg Baptist will be given to the International Mission Board to support Southern Baptist mission work overseas.  Also, a fund was established last year by Western Hills Church, San Mateo, CA, in memory of our sweet Anna who died on May 7, 2008.  This fund was established with the intent of installing an exterior baptistery so that baptisms would become a witness to the community.  The family has decided to rename this fund the Anna & Deloris Borger Make Christ Known Baptistery Fund in honor of both of their memories.  Donations made to this fund may be sent to the the following address:

Western Hills Church, 3399 CSM Drive,San Mateo, CA 94402, Phone: (650) 574-4881





Grandma Deloris, Feb. 13, 1929-May 2, 2009

2 05 2009

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I received a phone call about 30 minutes ago that my mother, Deloris Borger, passed away quietly at her home.  She had a very short bout with cancer.  Death has claimed another victim, but our Lord has defeated death.  My mother loved the Lord and is with him now.  Perhaps Anna was there to open the door for her and show her around.





Samuel Sings Bach

1 05 2009

Samuel has a recital coming up on May 16 at the seminary.  He is scheduled to sing two songs, People Need the Lord and Bach’s Bist du bei mir.  The second piece he will be singing in English translation.  I had not read the lyric to this piece until today and was struck again by the depth of older music that we just don’t have in today’s music.  Samuel has had a lot to think about over this past year.  Readers here will know that May 7 is the anniversary of Anna’s death.  And Samuel’s grandmother is going through life and death decisions right now.  And we are making decisions right now as a family that I know are unsettling to Samuel because he does not know (along with us) where we will be in three months.

With all that in mind, here is the song he will be singing at his recital:

Art thou with me?
I go with gladness
To death and unto my repose.
Ah, how content such death would find me:
If thy fair hands were there to teach me,
My ever faithful eyes to close.
Art thou with me?
I go with gladness
To death and unto my repose.

I hope Samuel is paying attention to what he sings.  I suspect he is.