Back in my working days at Fisher-Price Toys I was the company spokesperson for our 75th anniversary and gave a presentation to 1100 employees with the CEO sitting 15 feet in front of me. My talk to you today is more important than that event ever was.
Three weeks ago, Sue Scott asked me to talk to you today about my walk with Christ and what St. Theodore’s means to me. I am not going to tell you an enthralling Sam Walton story, but I am going to tell you a love story in six minutes that takes place over 63 years.
Paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13 : 4...
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous or conceited or proud. Love is happy with the truth. Love never fails. Love is eternal.
This love story began, unbeknownst to Becky and I, in 1955 at Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler, Texas. How ironic is it that we have a picture on our dresser as cradle Episcopalians together in our communion class in 1958?! The Rydberg family had a tall bespectacled stately blonde daughter, and the Fox family had a shorter athletic smart-aleck son that attended there for 10 years until the end of high school in 1965. The two children had no interest in each other until their 25th high school reunion in 1990. That Friday night I walked into the Holiday Inn reunion suite. Standing in front of the hors d’oeuvres table in a striking blue pants suit was the most stylish, statuesque blonde I had ever seen! This couldn’t be Becky Rydberg! But it sure was. After getting the last dance the next night and feeling like Prince charming dancing with Cinderella, a year later I asked Becky to marry me at the Maui Hyatt Regency Swan Court restaurant, on her birthday, with black and white swans swimming in front of us and Becky’s favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber tune being played on the grand piano behind us. That was the best sale I ever made!
Over the next 25 years, Fly Girl finished her 12 million mile Delta career and Toy Boy sold his $3 billion worth of Fisher-Price toys. Becky raised two contentious stepsons along with her son and life was sometimes difficult but blessed and wonderful. We attended church after church as I moved Becky to the vacation Mecca’s of Detroit and Buffalo. We were even so desperate we attended a Methodist and Presbyterian Church…briefly. After getting out of Buffalo after five years for good behavior, we finally felt back at home in Northwest Arkansas, and found our permanent church home at St. Theodore’s 15 years ago.
In retirement Becky found her new passion -- the Bella Vista Courtesy Van -- and became the biggest fund raiser in its history. She even had a wonderful lady actually will her house to the Van, which recently sold it for enough to buy three custom vans. Becky was also in five other clubs while I battled Byrd Williams and Doug Farner and many others on the golf courses of Bella Vista. Becky and I served St. Theodore’s with pleasure, she as a lector with her soothing southern voice, and me as an average usher.
Three years ago tonight at 11:00 p.m. the love story took a turn for the worse. Becky had a severe ischemic stroke and spent the next five weeks in Mercy ICU and HealthSouth Stroke Rehab Center. Our friend with 36 years as a PT told me that 60% of husbands whose wives are severe stroke survivors never bring them home. This never entered my mind. Why? Because on page 424 of the Book Of Common prayer I made a promise on Oct. 12, 1991 , at the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Dallas , Texas to “love, comfort, honor, and keep Becky in illness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live."
During Becky’s 29-day stay at HealthSouth, we felt the love of many wonderful people. I bought several bags of clothes pins and pinned up over 200 get well cards on the curtains in Becky’s room. The doctors, nurses, and friends who visited were instantly aware of the caring people who reached out to Becky in her time of need. And the wonderful Christian at the top of that list exemplifies the quality of the congregation of St. Theodore’s. Sharon Moravits brought Becky a 2-foot Norfolk Pine in a pot. With it were handmade laminated cards -- in envelopes -- with uplifting jokes and phrases on both sides. We opened a new message every day and hung it on what we called the TREE of HOPE. These cards are now kept in a place of remembrance and the little pine tree is now four feet tall and enjoys a view of Loch Lomond in our Bella Vista room, where it reminds us of Faith, Hope, and Love every day. Thank you, Sharon. That same room where the tree lives is also where Helen Bladon came to play gin rummy with Becky on many occasions. I invite any of you ladies that enjoy cards to make it a small mission of yours to give Becky a call and come have some tea and play some gin with her.
Life brought us another surprise in August of 2016, nine months after Becky’s stroke. After a routine physical exam, Becky had a high white blood cell count and was referred to Highland’s Oncology, where we were informed she had Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, which affects 1.6 out of 100,000 people. There was no connection to the stroke. Becky’s first comment after our tears dried was “what next?” Many prayers and luck got Becky to M.D. Anderson in Houston and into a clinical trial. Nine months later she was in remission and has remained that way. M.D. Anderson and their drugs work miracles. And a lot of prayer by a lot of wonderful Christians certainly doesn’t hurt.
Becky can’t be a lector here anymore and I can’t usher, but we love being here in the house of God when we can get here without a restless Saturday night. The hymnal print is getting more difficult to see, but I always have extra Kleenex when we sing any of Becky’s top 40. For 25 years I was obviously well fed and well served by a lovely Christian international Fly Girl. How lucky can one Toy Boy get?! Now I pay it all back as best I can, with the help of God.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13
My FAITH was reaffirmed that fateful night three years ago and every day since then. Fr. Will visited with us at home in 2016 and gave us HOPE when he said: “always look forward!" And I reaffirm my LOVE and the other two every night as I cross myself and point to the angel that God brought me 28 years ago in front of the hors d’oeuvres table, and then I go to bed.
Thank you, and God Bless everyone at ST. Theodore’s.