“HOLD LOOSELY EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT ETERNAL.”
My dear friend Hazel went home to heaven a few years ago, but as I sorted through a pile of papers recently I found a quote she’d sent in 1987, after my young nephew Byron Wheatley died in a plane crash. It seemed to summarize her life’s philosophy. “Hold loosely everything that is not eternal.” Her letter ended with characteristic enthusiasm, “What a beautiful morning! Lets go somewhere and celebrate!”
We were of different generations and spent most of our lives widely separated by geography, but we were connected in ways I can only explain as God’s. Often Hazel called or wrote to say she’d been impressed to pray for us. Invariably, we been in some crisis and needed those prayers. Sometimes it was her or her family needing prayer.
Hazel held loosely the things of this world, though we shared an intense joy in the beauty it offers. We loved to go exploring, and wherever we might be living, we managed to get together for a couple of weeks every year.
When we moved to Alaska, she was thrilled to visit. We went for walks through the woods at midnight, enjoying the flaming sky as the sun dipped below the horizon, then came right back up again. We visited Denali Park and gold mine tailings, rode a sternwheeler on the Tanana River, took a camping trip to Valdez to see the resurrected town after the earthquake of 1964, explored the Kenai peninsula.
When I visited her and her husband in Pennsylvania, we scuffed through brilliant autumn leaves, collected cones for wreaths, wandered through cemeteries and tiny villages.
We both enjoyed writing, poetry and art. Her poems praised her Lord and Savior, and her stories told her adventures in introducing others to Him. We never had time for all the things we liked to do, but Hazel always took time to listen to people. She had a wonderful knack of turning the conversation to what was at the center of a person’s problem, then pointing him or her to the One who had the answer.
Whether Hazel and I were together in person, or via letters or e-mail, I often heard, “What a beautiful day! Let’s celebrate.” What a glorious truth, to know that she’s celebrating today in heaven.