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Easter for Betty and Jabe Breland


“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15)


On Monday afternoon, April 2nd I was spending some time with my Dad at his house. While we were talking, my Dad, who is a believer, asked what I thought the Bible taught about after death. I mentioned that once we leave this body we know that Christians go to be with Christ immediately as Paul taught. The question came up about the resurrection. For that I turned to 1 Thessalonians chapter four and read the passage that explained that at the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead, the dead in Christ would be bodily resurrected. The souls would unite with a new body, young, vibrant, disease free, fit to enjoy the full joy of Heaven.


It was literally then, that my phone rang. Anna, my wife, was calling to relay that her mother was dying.


April is an important month in mine’s and Anna’s life. We had our first date on April 1. On April 7 Anna’s son, my stepson was born. During Holy week of 2001 on April 12 Anna’s father passed away. Now this year, on April 2nd Holy week for 2012, Anna’s mother lay dying.


Very quickly, we loaded our van and drove over toMarianna,Florida. When we arrived we went straight to the nursing home where we met up with Anna’s brother and his wife. The next day, April 3rd, Betty Breland passed from this life to the next.


Emotions were mixed at her passing. Mrs. Betty Breland was 87 years-old, mentally crippled by Alzheimer’s, that most cruel and heartless of diseases. On the one hand, the sundering of earthly bonds rips open the heart. Tears attest to our humanity. On the other there is the peace and joy of a new beginning and healing from all of all of life’s illness and pain.  This fresh beginning tempers the loss.


As preparations continue for the funeral, my goal is to pay homage to both Anna’s mother and father: Betty and Jabe Breland, M.D.  Their lives were rich, productive, touching many others. Scripture tells us that the married become one flesh. In a sense the man and the woman are virtually a new, corporate person although individuality is not erased. In the marriage of Betty and Jabe Breland this was true in the fullest sense of the idea. Dr. Jabe and Betty became a team, a like-minded unit that worked together. But they were not interchangeable. Perhaps the best analogy to use for their marriage is that of a zipper: two complementing sides joined together.


Words I would use to describe Betty Breland are gracious, kind, compassionate, wise and totally honest.  Perhaps the word that best make the point is that word: dignity. She possessed great dignity. She was a wonderful host. Oh and by the way, she was by nature, an introvert.


The old adage is that opposites attract. So naturally her husband of 52 years would be a boisterous extrovert who in Betty’s own words, “… was a fun loving man.” The attraction was not a lightening strike. When Betty was working at a hospital inNew Orleansshe first met this fun loving man. The laundry of the hospital served as an ad hoc rec room and lounge for the doctors and nurses to decompress and relax from their duties. Keeping with Dr. Jabe’s jocular demeanor, he would tell people (to Betty’s consternation) that they met in between the sheets. He neglected to mention that these were sheets hung to dry in the laundry-rec room-lounge. When they met, he told her a story she found objectionable and she decided right then she did not like him! It was his work with patients that changed her opinion. Over time she observed his compassionate character and she found herself drawn to Jabe Breland.


Early on in the marriage Mrs. Betty’s organization skills began to blossom. Dr. Jabe, who exhibited strong poker skills early, had one night with bad luck. Even worse was that he had shot some needed household funds. Mrs. Betty (in her own phase) got red-headed (mad) and told Dr. Jabe hereafter SHE would handle and disburse funds. Dr. Jabe saw the wisdom in compliance.


Both loved children. Dr. Jabe announced he wanted twelve children. Mrs. Betty in her droll humor advised she would birth the first six and he could take care of the others. They produced five children, independent individuals all: Jabe, Tom, Margaret, Henry and Anna. The husband and wife team of Betty and Jabe raised a brood of productive and good members of society, each with a sense of decency and compassion for those around them. There is no greater fun than being in a Breland family gathering with the five siblings; you will split your sides.


They also labored together in the field of medicine in Marianna for almost 50 years. As a physician and surgeon, Dr. Jabe did any and everything that the practice required: some surgery, birthing babies, house calls—you name it. It was not uncommon with Dr. Breland to be paid with eggs and vegetables. Indeed there were many occasions where, knowing the economic need of the families, they would provide service at no charge. Mrs. Betty dispensed help and assistance as a nurse in the practice.


Betty and Jabe Breland were people of virtue and faith in Christ their savior. Both served at St. Luke Episcopal Church for many years leaving an imprimatur of faith on the community and their children.


The coin that is death has two sides: one that is the cruel harshness of separation from the beloved, the other is the joyous reunion of those once separated. Although for those who remain it is in many ways a double chalice of loss and suffering our next journey ourselves will be one of glad reunion.


The hope of the Christian faith is that death is not a period, but a comma. The hope is that death is not an ending but a passage, a door to joy and true healing of soul and body.


Although this Easter season of 2012 is hard, there is no better time to drink from the chalices of death and resurrection. It is fitting that Betty Breland was laid to rest on the Saturday of the Easter Vigil. This is Easter morning. Yesterday mortality was on full display. Today we celebrate the future promise that for us as family, today signifies not a period, but a comma. The Friday we call ‘good’ has secured this for us. We as extended family and in-laws weep for Mrs. Betty’s passing for ourselves, for our loss. What we must remember is that our painful, heart-wrenching loss is for Mrs. Betty the most ultimate and glorious gain. We that survive (more correctly expressed as those who remain behind) are stung by the cruel, sharp barb of death. For this gracious, good woman of dignity, wife to a physician, mother to 5 birth children and one honorary, grandmother to fourteen and great-grandmother to one, this is a season of victory. She is home. The lives of Betty and Jabe Breland were the truest expression of two becoming one flesh. When soul mates loose their partner in death it is the cruelest of losses and separations: the one is split asunder into what now is in many ways is a half. It is that cruel side of the coin, but now that coin has been turned over to joyous reunion.


Now the halves have reunited, to become one.



Copyright © 2012 Brian Bailey, Author