I had kept myself–a present both to the one who would be my husband and to me, and now on June 27, 1956, as in the bathroom I made myself ready, my mind whirled: a man, I’m getting ready to be in bed with a man, I don’t really know him . . .And I did not know him, my Jerry. For who of us in truth know the one with whom we have partnered. Indeed, who of us scarcely know ourselves.
I was incredibly young as I entered into my marriage–for in a few days I would reach the wise, noble age of 18 years. No, I did not know Gerald R. Buxton, nor did I comprehend the magnificent path on which God had directed me, as on that significant day I became his wife.
He was a darling.
Of a gregarious nature, he gathered and maintained a wide circle of friends.
Chosen, and set apart, his hands were laid on thousands.
Four of them. This one is called Michael. Stephen, Rebecca, and Andrew rounded out the four. Four excellent humans, gifts of God.
Andrew was the photographer.
Then came the day. We were there, all of us. We had prayed, invited in visitors, talked long, had his hands laid on grandchildren, held hands, and made plans. “We’ll take care of Mom,” the sons said when he expressed concern. We wept in private and on the necks of our dear ones.
. . .then came the moment Jesus took him home. He was 86.
Today is another June 27th. I’ve tried to write this all day, have planned and wanted to do it, but again did not want to, and if I dig in my heels much longer, midnight will come and I will have missed. On that other June 27 I was seventeen with only a microscopic understanding of the magnificent, rare man who asked me to be his wife. Today, 66 years later, I believe it is not possible to truly comprehend the profound grace with which God favored me. I will never get over it. How blessed I am.
Once upon a time, a person who is dear spoke sharply in response to something I had said. I was puzzled, as my “offending” words seemed innocent to me. I said nothing, but closely examined the conversation, for the relationship was important to me. In replaying the incident in my head I listened to my tone of voice and asked myself if there had been any snippet of innuendo that had tagged along with my words.
Within the last hour I watched a video of the late Rev. J. T. Pugh being interviewed by Rev. Paul Mooney. During that hour or so as Brother Pugh was reciting some of his ministerial experiences, he mentioned the book, I’m OK.–You’re OK. then went on to explain that the real truth of life reveals that I’m not okay and you’re not okay.
My mind reverted to the scenario I mentioned in the first paragraph here, and I resolved to continue my quest. Although I know I am a bitter example of such, I truly want to reflect Jesus. I want His mind. I want Christlike responses to be those that come automatically to my lips. I pray my tone of voice will be clear and kind, and that accusing or indicting innuendo be absent from my vocabulary.
I met her when I was 18 years old. Now those two numbers are reversed, and with a bow to frank honesty I acknowledge myself to be 81. (Eighty-one? How can this be so? We will speak to that strange subject another day.) The husband to Lillian was Sam. My Jerry and I called the couple Brother and Sister White. We were all in church work; Brother White was the pastor of a church in Bellflower, CA. and Jerry was an evangelist. We wives toddled beside our men, making our unique contributions to life, and to the Work of God.
We became the dearest of friends. Together we worshipped, traveled, played, laughed (and cried), did business, pastored churches, planned conferences, cooked, ate great meals, celebrated weddings and birthdays and retirements over a period of more than sixty years. By then we had began using close names, and it was Sam and Lil and Jerry and Shirley.
Now, at 98 years old, she is gone, as is Sam (and is my Jerry.) Her sweet funeral was last Friday. (The following pictures compliments of Debbie Akers.)
She truly was a remarkable beautiful woman of God, and I believe it well within the mark to rank her with notable women of the Bible, and to revere her as such.
I nominate her to stand beside the chief women of Thessalonica who were among the first to receive the gospel at the preaching of Paul and Silas. As she labored in ministry with her beloved Sam, she is in line with Priscilla who labored in ministry with her husband Aquilla. I’ve seen her as strong as Deborah, and once when we wanted to begin Ladies Conferences and could be heard rumbles of disagreement in high places, she marched step in step with Esther and said, “If I perish I perish.” She was as capable as Abigail, as full of faith as the Syrophenician woman, as humble as Elizabeth, and as Mary, she was chosen of God. As was Dorcas, she was known for her good works. Perhaps John the beloved says it best when he dedicated one of his books to The Elect Lady.
Now she is gone, resting in the presence of God.
It was five years ago when Sam and Lil were visiting in our home in Crestline that I lined them up near the hearth of our fireplace to take their picture. How beautiful they are. Wrinkled. Used up.
(I would so love for you who knew the White’s well, to take the time to add your tribute in the comment section here.)
Melina said it correctly, “This is a bittersweet day.” Indeed it was, for its curious boundaries metered funeral flowers, eulogies, and graveside committal words. Flowing tears and grievous expression held hands with mirth and laughing aloud.
Two of our sons, their wives, and one grandson, along with Jerry and me, had attended the funeral of our dear friend, Rev. Paul Walker. It was a beautiful service, where loving honor was paid to this great man of God. Jerry was honored by being asked to speak during the graveside service.
Jerry’s birthday had been the day before. He had already celebrated with birthday dinners and breakfasts, a myriad of phone calls from family and friends, and by opening packages received in person, and in the mail. These particular youngsters, though, had not seen him on his special day, although they had communicated by mail and by telephone calls.
“Dad,” said Andrew at the conclusion of the services. “Let’s go eat somewhere. Celebrate your birthday a bit more.”
No one knew a close-by place to eat, so Andrew and Shauna consulted maps and recommendations on their phone, and we all pulled up in front of Billy Qs in Palm Desert. It was a tiny pizza place, with not a table to seat us all, except for one with high stools, so we scurried around, and helped Jerry get seated up there. After we had received the drinks we had ordered, Andrew leaned in, and said, “There’s a really nice place next door. Want to pay for our drinks and go there?”
“No.” I said, “Let’s don’t do that.”
All agreed, and what a dynamite decision we made. The food is outstanding, and the people are fantastic. The female partner of the man/wife owners of the little place was our waitress . . .and she is a hoot.
My husband has a line he loves to use in restaurants–one which causes the rest of us to smile wanly, and take on an apologetic look. Sometimes we tuck our heads. “Do you take food stamps?” he asked Darnelle.
She missed not a beat. “Yes we do. However, you need to provide three forms of ID.” Wide-eyed, Jerry was speechless. The rest of us were howling.
The upward momentum never faltered during that fine hour. When Darnelle learned this was a birthday celebration of sorts, she went next door to Cold Stone, bought an ice cream cake, and set it at the end of our table. She scurried up a make-shift candle, and we sang. Before we left this charming place, Darnelle was in the middle of all of us, and we were hugging and promising to see each other again.
For part of the summer, she and her husband take an RV to Big Bear Lake, which is about 20 miles from where Jerry and I live. “We take a portable pizza oven there, and cook up pizzas for everyone in the RV park.” She wrote her phone number on the back of a card. “Call me. We also take a boat there. Love to take you out on it.”
. . .While you wait for the Library of Congress to catalogue your book you can squat and hold a stick like his in your hand and draw lines in the dirt and steal a glance at his little face, and if you do it long enough he may turn his head sideways and look back at you.
. . .While you wait for them to know you should be their pastor you can go in the wee hours. Go to a hospital, to the back entrance where blood drippings will steer your feet. Trudge through the wide doors and look. See. By chance a person on a green plastic chair may haul up his eyes and latch onto yours. While you wait to be a pastor you may see into his soul or hers. It is probably dark down in there.
“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?”
President Donald Trump
Jerry and I had watched the clock and before 6:00 arrived had tuned into Fox News on our computers, as we were eager to hear the State of the Union address by President Trump. Although the purpose of this piece is not to critique the speech, it seems appropriate to note his thoughtful, patriotic, uplifting words to be of the highest caliber.
It was his words, “What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” that resonated with me, and it is of that I speak.
I recalled a day at the beach as I watched a man with his children. What of their moment? Where will they go? What will they do?
She was afraid, I recall, for while you cannot discern it here, there was a chasm, a drop-off, a scary place. Seeing her fearful crouch, he took the hand of his young daughter, and led her across. He taught her in that moment he would protect her, that she could trust men, that her daddy loved her and her mommy loved her, that she could conquer fear; indeed that sometimes it was okay to be afraid.
Others. Rather. Memory loam foul for the dig, deep the findings of scream and stagger. The hate. Hide and cut. Reach. A hand? ……..Any? Is there none? A slap, that’s a hand
Didn’t you know that?
And you new in my heart. A moment. To take. Of peace, Divinity, sobs, shame. Reach. A hand? ……Any? There is one and another ……and that is love. And forgiveness. And care.
Didn’t you know that?
And the good man I watched . . .as he watched . . .as he yet watches. And now is her birthday. She’s twelve. She’s safe.
Occasionally we finger the edge of it; our touch reckons it to be uncommon, even of the eternal. From our deep, issue thick tears, even as our breath catches. Rarified has brushed against us; encounter with glory laces our world.
Compelled to know the depth of this story, I recognize it now more than ever, to be our story, Jerry’s and mine, and in an unfathomable way, he is as our child. He who nearly killed Jerry. We weep . . .for him. . . for his people . . .for ourselves . . .for mankind. Journal words grip . . .his father discarded by drugged parents–orphanage drop-off, as casual as the mailing of a post office package. Rage. Violence. Carried to new generation . . .and to another, kicked as a bent can down the wretched road of drugs and alcohol and anger.
“My father, an Italian man was racist, called flies on the wall niggers. My mother mentioned that she did not like me at one point because I was David Jr.” A sense of aloneness in his family engulfed him, he told me yesterday, and still at this time in his life, he intimated, “I have a sense of aloneness.”
And they had brought their copy of A Thousand Pieces, and I wrote in it, and then did Jerry, and maybe at that moment none of our eyes took in the dedication page: To Jerry, who lived it.
So here we are. On the brim, the edge. Delving, Searching. We read. We write. The last chapter? On the margin of enlightenment, self-understanding, reckoning with ourselves, finding our way ever deeper into the presence of God. The Buxtons and the Esteys . . .on the cusp. . .
As soon as it beeped, I reached for the phone beside me and as I lifted it, I saw the number was an unfamiliar one. A text message read:
This is Dave Estey. The man that was driving the truck. I have read the book and want you to know how sorry I am. This is my contact number if anyone would ever need to speak to me further. With the deepest regret. God bless. Dave
I did not know anyone named Dave Estey, but as soon as I read his message, I knew that indeed, I did know him. He was the driver of the truck that twenty-five years ago had struck my husband as he stood beside a disabled car, leaving him so critically injured that he spent five months in St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, CA.
Some of you will know that several years ago I wrote a book entitled AThousand Pieces in which I told the story of Jerry’s death in the street, the lady who revived him, his almost unbelievably severe injuries, and his remarkable recovery. I also told that the driver of the truck who hit Jerry was driving with a suspended license, had no insurance, no assets, was drunk, and was high on methamphetamines.
A Thousand Pieces has been an inspiration to scores of people, and is now in its fourth printing. Among other places, it is available at Amazon.
So, as I looked at my phone on January 17, 2019, I came to the reckoning that Dave Estey was that driver.
“Jerry,” I called across the room. “Listen to this text I just received.”
The details are too many to include here, but know this: Jerry and I during the past two days have come to know that Dave Estey is a rare man, one of meekness and goodness; of sweetness and of love. He has fought demons most of his life and is a deeply wounded man. But now, in his early fifties, he has come to himself, is analyzing his life, and is making restitution. He is humble, remorseful, and truly repentant. Two days ago, he sat by Jerry in a restaurant, looked him square in the face, and, prefaced by several long sentences, said, “I am sorry.”
And my husband . . .in his sweet, slow way, put his hand atop Dave’s, and said, “I forgave you twenty-five years ago.” The sweet presence of God hovered about us, and we all, I believe, wept.
As I said earlier, the whole story is too long to tell here, but you should know this. Sometime back, Dave began searching for Jerry Buxton, and as he did, he came across this blog, learned through it of A Thousand Pieces, and ordered a copy from Amazon. He then made the contact to which I have referred, and made other contacts, which resulted in our meeting together. He lives 450 miles away from us. Last Tuesday he drove down to our area, and along with his wife, and two of our friends, Patrick and Holly Garrett, Jerry and I met him at the Claim Jumper in San Bernardino.
I have essentially finished writing a book called Dream Shards and was working on some drafting of it when the first text from Dave came. The gist of the new book is that each of us has dreams and at one time or another they all shatter. The issue then is what we do about it? Do we wallow around in the ashes, the shards, or do we pick up the pieces and fashion a new piece? A new dream? The coexistence and interaction of Jerry’s story and Dave’s story must be a part of that book. So even though I was through writing it, I am adding another chapter. Dave and I will be communicating by phone and email and the rest of his story will be told in that book.
In the meantime, I submit to you that Dave Estey is a rare and courageous man, and despite his sordid history, he is a good man. We are still shaken about this meeting, and believe it involves more than can be seen or understood. No doubt it is of the spiritual realm, and is directed by God. Both Jerry and I believe Dave has caught a vision of righteousness and godliness, and we will continue to do all we can to lead him to a full biblical experience with God. Please pray for all of us.
Sister Garrett had asked my husband to speak with the young men if he felt it was the right thing, and so came the time after we had eaten when they all gathered in the living room, and Jerry spoke a few words to them. They were so quiet, so attentive, and so obviously moved by his words.
I don’t say too much about it except with our family and close friends, but my husband’s childhood was quite rocky, and that he so effectively pushed through significant challenges is a source of pride to me, and I believe to our children. He was reared in the state of Louisiana, the youngest of twelve children, and more than a few times he has said to me, “We were so poor.” They had no running water, no telephone, no indoor bath, and no car. When he was four years old, his mother died. When he was thirteen his father died.
The Buxtons are great people and his siblings did their best to help him through those challenging years. He lived with some of them from time to time, but he was not really happy. “I never felt I belonged anywhere. Always felt I was in the way.” For a couple of years while he was in high school he lived with a family who had a dairy farm. He rose at 3:30, milked cows, then delivered raw milk to people in the neighborhood before his first session. “I was so sleepy, I often fell asleep in class.”
I believe it was when he was a high school Junior that he went to live with his brother, Bill, who was already a school teacher, and who helped Jerry enroll in a college after he graduated from high school. He worked his way through those four years and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. A young man having a college degree today is not considered especially significant, but in those years, it was an unusual accomplishment.
He had received the Holy Ghost when he was 13 years old, and during his Junior year in college, God called him into the ministry.
“The rest,” they say, “is history.” He has taught school, founded a school, pastored three churches, married a pretty good wife (feel free to snicker here), and sired four children who all are living good lives, and who are filled with the Holy Ghost. So to those young men Saturday afternoon, he gave the good word, “You Can Make It!” No matter your challenge, no matter your situation, “you can make it.” Some of the young men have solid godly families, some have sketchy relationships with their fathers, and some have no fathers at all in their homes.
So ended the afternoon of a memorable, blessed day. Look carefully at the last picture, and you will see that not everything was of a spiritual, holy nature. . .which is quite as should be!