A note from the author of ‘Letter From Heaven:’ My mom, Betty Jo Mathis, entered her eternal rest and joined her daughter Mary Ellen November 29, 2018. This was originally written in 1996. Several years later, mom used it in various publications with her introduction below.
– Pastor Tedd Mathis, August 2019
A note from Betty Jo Mathis
Every year when leaves turn color and the frosty air prickles my nose, I find myself taking a stroll down memory lane – a stroll that takes me back to 1947. It was on Halloween morning when I delivered our first child – a tiny baby girl.
Being only nineteen and very naïve, I was excited to have my baby seven weeks sooner than I’d planned. I counted the days until she’d be released from the hospital and I could dress her in the flannel nities I’d made, wrap her in a soft receiving blanket and tuck her into the bassinet I’d repaired. But twelve days after her birth, Don and I were devastated when the doctor called to say that our Mary Ellen had ‘just expired.’
Expired? That means she’s …she’s dead! No baby? But ….How could you do that to me, God?? I railed at the God I didn’t know and accused my bewildered young husband of not caring.
Neither Don nor I had a clue then that a loving Father was preparing to draw us to Himself. Three years later, after a time of deep Holy Spirit conviction, God opened our eyes to the truth of our sinful condition and our need for His salvation. We surrendered our lives to Him and then realized that God had taken a lamb in order to draw two lost sheep to Himself.
For our fiftieth anniversary in 1996, our son, Tedd, wrote for us and read publicly the following ‘Letter From Heaven.’ I share it here, with memories of that long ago October when our hearts were broken for reasons we could not then understand.
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Letter From Heaven
Dear Dad and Mom:
I realize some folks may not recognize who is writing this letter, for not everyone knows about me. I wasn’t on earth long enough to make a visible impact on lots of people and I came before the rest of my brothers and sisters. But I am told you talk about me and ask questions about me and remember my birthday as well as my departure, so that I’m not forgotten. For that I’m grateful.
While your memories of me are limited to my time in the womb and knowing me physically for a few short days, our gracious Creator and King has kept me up to date on your lives over the years. He’s told me of the other seven whom you have raised and how they have families of their own. He has told me of the grand children and the great grandchild. He has kept me informed of your moves and your ministry. He has told me of your heartaches and your joys. I don’t fully understand the heartaches but our Lord tells me that He does. But all heaven takes part in the joys you experience on earth as our Father makes Himself known through you and draws people to Himself as you proclaim the name of His Son.
Today heaven is celebrating with you and your friends as you mark 50 years of marriage. Heaven rejoices when earthlings keep their God-ordained vows to one another. Our gracious Creator joined you two together 50 years ago. To you it may have looked like it was romance, hormones and a Baptist preacher bringing you together as husband and wife, but it was our Sovereign Lord orchestrating the entire event. The junction of your lives was for far greater purposes than lots of Jersey cows and lots of Mathises. Who would ever have imagined that a city boy who loved the farm and a farmer’s daughter who loved the city boy who loved the farm would be used by God Himself to proclaim His mercy and truth? But that’s God’s way – unexplainable.
Speaking of unexplainable, the explanation for my short stay on earth can only be found in the mysterious designs of God’s purposes. Your grief, your anger, your confusion – when I try to reason it out, I simply don’t get it. But when I stop trying to reason it out like a puzzle and instead, believe those eternal words Paul wrote about our King doing things “according to His good pleasure,” then I kind of understand. For the one constant in all of our Sovereign’s purposes is the holy jealousy of His glory – the pure, right delight and intent of bringing attention to Himself.
When I remember that, then my physical death does make some sense. For it was something He used to bring your attention and submission to Him. And after He got your attention, He used your lives to get the attention of Bill and Linda and Loretta and Gayle and Jim and Tedd and Scott. And He used your lives to get the attention of the Frank’s, the Denny’s, the Vic’s, the Clara’s, the Mike’s and a myriad of others.
Mom and Dad, you might be surprised how often I meet people up here who recognize the Mathis name. At times I’m prompted to organize a reunion. But I’ll wait for you two. At any rate, even though I missed out on some of the earthly experiences and pleasures, it was definitely worth it. You’ll know what I mean when you get here.
Well, I best let you wind up your earthly festivities. Our King sends His regards and tells me that it won’t be too many more years that we will be together once again. Until then, He asked me to remind you that His words remain true and to continue in trusting and obeying His promises.