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It’s A Wonderful Life: Relish the Remarkable Ride

It’s A Wonderful Life: Relish the Remarkable Ride

A Tribute to My Husband, Terry David Bilhartz: December 16, 2014

The steadfast love of God never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end,

They are new every morning, new every morning,

Great is your faithfulness, O God, great is your faithfulness.

As I look out into your faces and see so many friends and family, I am awed and amazed to share this moment with you.  We moved to Huntsville in 1979, and many of us go back at least that far.  Thank you for being here today.

Terry and I just returned last week from a trip to Disney World with Rocky, Lindsey, and 2 of our grandsons, Preston and Peyton.  42 years ago in 1972, we spent our honeymoon there; we returned with Rocky and Teriann in 1988; we returned again with the First UMC Handbell Choir when we had the opportunity to play at Epcot Center in 1996.  As we entered the Magic Kingdom together hand-in-hand last week, I was overwhelmed with emotion as we walked down Main Street toward the Disney castle.  I thought of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and said, “It truly has been such a wonderful life!”  My emotion meant so much to Terry, because I am usually the one who craves change and is always shaking the dust off my feet to move on in life, and he is the traditional one whose home and office are ever full of memories and keepsakes.  Terry and I discussed how blessed we were in our life together, and how amazing it was that we had moved from the 2 of us in 1972 to our immediate family of 9 and innumerable extended family in 2014.

So, you see that in a sense, we both started and ended our married life at Disney World.

Terry and I have often described our charmed life together as Zorba the Greek characterized the “Full Catastrophe of Life.”  Please understand that we were using the word “Catastrophe” in its best sense: a myriad of events from what we might have considered at one time as did Dickens, “the best of times and the worst of times,” but in recent years as we gained a little heavenly wisdom, learned to embrace all the times as good.  One way you can do that is to trust an unknown future to a known God who loves us and always uses these events for good in our lives, if we but open our hearts and allow the Spirit of God to work God’s highest purposes in us as we serve the world in lovingkindness.

As most of you now know, Terry died suddenly and unexpectedly late Friday afternoon after his usual daily workout on the treadmill.  He walked off the treadmill to the locker room, and collapsed on the floor.  Emergency efforts to restore his heart function were unsuccessful. He had worked a normal day according to colleagues without any signs of problems.  Terry was in good health, but had a congenital heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that put him at increased risk for sudden death (just like what you hear with a healthy young athlete who collapses on the basketball floor and suffers cardiac arrest).  All of our immediate family knew that he had this risk, but of course, one is never prepared for this sudden end to life on this earth as we know it.  However, we continue to thank God that he did not suffer with his death.

A movie that Terry and I had watched several times over the last year entitled “About Time” presents the lead character who is able to travel back in time to correct events that he thinks may not have gone so well the first time around.  By the end of the movie, the lead discovers that if he can just relish the remarkable ride by living in gratitude and savoring each moment, he no longer has to return to the event again to fix it, because it was just as it should have been the first time around.

That is our message as a family today that I want to share with you.  Terry’s life and death in his physical body were in perfect harmony and timing with the grace of God, and we are thankful.  We are in awe of our many blessings that we shared together in our bodies on this earth, and we are grateful for the knowing that God provides us something beyond this world, what we call Eternity/Beauty/Love/Life beyond the body in the ever-perfect presence of the Spirit of God and the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us.  We feel the love of God, Terry and our friends and family, and the immense peace that comes with that faith.

Our prayer is that we all would live our lives in joy and the awesomeness of each moment, understanding that while we are in these earthly bodies we don’t do that perfectly, but as we practice relishing the remarkable ride more and more, we do it more often.  Loving each moment helps us to use these moments wisely and consciously to bring lovingkindness to others as we serve God on this earth.

Comments (2)

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    Jane Spivey


    Patty, we have always been blessed by your family. Terry was a wonderful father to all of Teriann’s friends. He was also a wonderful Sunday School teacher and Terry was a blessing to all who knew him. You are in my prayers during this season in your life. I know that you are still helping others. Thank you for your blog posts. Jane


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      Patty Bilhartz


      Thanks for your kind words. You and your family are very dear to us.


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