Paul was one of three ministers who spoke. To end the service a video was played of Anabel giving her testimony that I've heard many times of how God used her son Mason to show His love for her. We all then stood and sang Jesus Loves Me. There was not a dry eye in the house.
I tried to find that video somewhere online but couldn't. What I did find was the printed testimony. I copied and pasted it here:
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!"
Mace could sing one song with great gusto -- just one: Jesus Loves Me.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
He would throw his head back and hold on to that first "Yes" in the chorus as long as he could, and then he would get tickled and almost fall out of his chair.
Sometimes -- when I think back on those days that seem so long ago -- I can still hear him giggle. How special that memory is to me. . .
I never doubted for a moment that Jesus loved our profoundly retarded little boy. It didn't matter that he would never sit with the kids in the back of the church and, on a certain special night, walk down the aisle, take the pastor by the hand, and invite Jesus into his heart. It was entirely irrelevant that he could not quote a single verse of Scripture, that he would never be able to reason or to comprehend God's love, that he would never be a dad -- I knew that Jesus loved Mason.
What I could not comprehend, what I could not accept, was that Jesus could love Mason's mother, Anabel. I believed that in order for anyone to accept me, to love me, I had to perform for them. My standard for getting love was performance-based, so I performed constantly, perfectly. And I was convinced that if anyone ever really got to know me, he or she wouldn't like me.
Mace could never have performed for anyone's love . . . but oh, how we loved him. His condition eventually deteriorated to such a degree -- and so rapidly -- that we had to institutionalize him when he was very young, so we enrolled him in the Enid State School for Mentally Handicapped Children.
We drove regularly the 120 miles to see him, but on this particular weekend he was at home for a visit. He had been with us since Thursday evening, and it was now Saturday afternoon. As soon as the dinner dishes were done, I would gather his things together and take him back to his house. I had done this many times before, but today God had something in mind that would change my life forever.
As I was washing the dishes, Mason was sitting in his chair watching me, or at least he was looking at me. That's when it began -- spinning emotions, tumbling stomach, the familiar sickening thoughts of separation and defeat: In just a little while, I'm going to start packing Mason's toys and his clothes, and take him away again. I can't do that. I simply cannot do it. I stopped washing dishes and got down on my knees in front of Mace. I took his dirty little hands in mine and tried desperately to reach him.
"Mason, I love you. I love you. If only you could understand how much I love you."
He just stared. He couldn't understand; he didn't comprehend. I stood up and started washing dishes again, but that didn't last long. This sense of urgency, almost panic, came over me, and once more I dried my hands and knelt in front of my precious little boy.
"My dear Mason, if only you could say to me, 'I love you, Mother.' I need that, Mace."
I stood up to the sink again. More dishes, more washing, more crying. But now thoughts, foreign to my way of thinking, began filtering into my conscious awareness.
I believe God spoke to me that day, and this is what He said:
"Anabel, you don't look at your son and turn away in disgust because he's sitting there with saliva drooling out of his mouth; you don't shake your head, repulsed because he has dinner all over his shirt or because he's sitting in a dirty, smelly diaper when he ought to be able to take care of himself. Anabel, you don't reject Mason because all the dreams you had for him have been destroyed. You don't reject him because he doesn't perform for you. You love him, Anabel, just because he is yours. Mason doesn't willfully reject your love, but you willfully reject Mine. I love you, Anabel, not because you're neat or attractive, not because you do things well, not because you perform for Me -- I love you just because you're Mine."
I had struggled for so many years, hating my performance patterns and yet living to perform, driven to perform, searching out the praise of people and thirsting for the love of God that I thought could come only to those who performed well enough to merit it. Yet God had just shown me that He loved me in spite of anything and everything, and He had shown me in a way that I could understand -- through my dear, sweet Mason.
Do you understand? You don't have to do anything for Him; you don't have to be something for Him. You can know that there is Someone who loves you not because of the way you do or don't look, or because of the talents you do or don't have. All you have to do is accept it: He loves you just because you are His.
* * *
Well, that's not the end of Mason's story. It wasn't long after that Sunday with him that Bill, our son Preston, and I went to visit him in Enid. We held his hand, stroked his hair, and talked to him. And then we prayed. God, by Your grace we've lived victoriously and have used Mace's little life and influence for Your glory . . . but we feel that he has suffered enough and that all the influence for Christ that can be realized from his life has pretty well been exhausted. God, if it be Your will, we ask that you take him to be with You.
We kissed Mason goodbye and headed home. It was the very next morning when the school called to say that Mason had "unexpectedly passed away during the night" -- and we knew that he had slipped away to be with Jesus.
The Far East Broadcasting Company in Cheju, Korea, received a letter from Bill a short time later: " . . . there was some insurance money. It belongs to God. We pass it along to FEBC for use in the China-Cheju Island project. . . ."
Mason's gift helped build a transmitter building for the 250,000-watt radio signal that now beams the gospel of Christ to China, Russia, and Japan. And it is because of Mason that people will continue to learn of Jesus, of His saving grace . . . and of the fact that He loves us just because we are His.
Yes, Jesus loves me . . .
Yes, Jesus loves me . . .
It was great to visit with Pres and Diane, Will and Kelly, and Wade and his wife and three children. We had not seen Will and Wade since our days at Southcliff. We sat at the dinner table with Will and Kelly and Will kept us all entertained and laughing. I told him I see a lot of his Dad in him.
It was pretty sad to see Bill Gillham. He's in a wheel chair and very bent over. He did know Paul and chuckled and responded to him. Bill is in Renaissance, a care facility in FW, and is taken care of and very loved by his family.
It's very sad to see this vibrant couple who affected so many lives through their ministry grow older and lose their health and now Anabel's gone. But there was much appreciation and love shown at the service. I sat with Mazie and Bill and it seems that Mazie was probably Anabel's closest friend. I introduced them years ago. Mazie was on the program to lead in prayer but she had to decline. She was sure she wouldn't be able to get through it.
We saw a lot of friends from long ago as we do every time we go back to Southcliff. It's hard to believe we left there 28 years ago. It was thirty years ago that the Gillham's moved to Fort Worth to be in Southcliff. Lots of memories!
So, Good-by Annabel. See ya later...