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A Tale of Two Sisters
A Farewell to Selma and Patty
Witnessing Tools
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Wendy Wippel

Remember Selma and Patty from the long-running TV show, The Simpsons? Bart Simpson's ill-tempered, chain-smoking spinster aunts (on his mother’s side?).

I have my own Patty and Selma (my husband, shortly after our nuptials named them thus). Spinster aunts on my mother’s side, also chain-smoking, also ill-tempered.  Well, I did. In the last few months they’ve both died.

Patty and Selma both grew up in the 60’s but shared little else. Patty was the 60s’ party girl. Tall, beautiful, and in demand. She had a wicked sense of humor and always had a date. “Hip incarnate”, she had all the top tunes on 45s before anyone else knew they were popular, and was invited to every party. After high school, she lasted one semester at Ohio State (a few too many parties) and took a job at a local electronics store.  She was good at business, and it wasn’t long before she was half -owner of the electronics shop. As the successful businesswomen, she traveled and was the proud owner of the first cell phone I ever saw (as big as a shoebox).  She was a haven, in my teens, from the vigilant oversite of my parents, letting me crash her apartment in order to skip school while I studied for a test I should have studied for the day before. She was unfailingly  prompt with birthday cards and her gifts always reflected the time and thought she put into them, and wrote wonderful, wonderful cards and letters. On the eve of my own departure to Ohio State penning that she hoped I enjoyed OSU as much as she did but that I would also enjoyed it longer that she did, with gentle guidance on how to navigate my freshman year.

She also burned her bra (and needed desperately to acquire another one when she died at the age of 68), campaigned for a woman’s right to have an abortion, voted strictly democrat (and harangued her conservative friends and relatives about their differing views.) She once expressed the fact that she was proud of  having spent her life giving pleasure to many men instead of to only one.  I am not making that up.

Selma was the consummate 60’s hippy. A non-conformist, kind of a back-to-the land type.  She took me camping and let me ride her horse. She brought me over for sleepovers, where we unfailingly made brownies and played card games, all night long. She loved the song “Rocky Raccoon” I don’t think she ever voted. After high school, she descended into drug addiction and alcohol abuse and developed some serious mental issues.

Like I said, they shared the womb but little else.  About as different as could be. And they hated each other. They actually once had a fistfight at Thanksgiving (when they were both in their fifties.)

I wish I was lying.

Patty and Selma did share fond memories of churchgoing as children, but both, as adults, had a fuzzy picture of God as a kindly grandfather in the sky that loved them and would help them out with their problems (and would certainly get them to heaven when they die), but had no moral expectations for any of his grandchildren. Or any right to have them.

Patty, who loved the Kum-ba-ya feel of church and singing hymns, did go on occasion. With apparently no affect on her view of God.

I met the Lord in 1977, and, subsequently, had conversations about who Jesus really is with both Patty and Selma. To no avail.  I was still wet behind the ears and had nothing to tell them.

And I still lived at Ohio State.  So.. out of sight, out of mind.  My life went on. 

In 1987, however, I moved back to my hometown just outside of Cincinnati. And Selma was pregnant, with no clue who the father was. 

Patty was adamant that the baby be aborted. Her reasons made sense. Selma was mentally ill. She had no job. She had no husband.  She didn’t even know who the father was!

How would she take care of a child? How would she provide for him? 

I (who was at that time actually picketing the Margaret Sanger Center in Cincinnati regularly) was equally adamant, on principle, that that should not happen, it’s a life. She can give the baby up for adoption. 

I had many conversations with Selma in the months to follow (as did Patty) but in the end, Selma decided to have the baby and keep it.

The bonus was that, over the many conversations I had with her,  Selma also fell into Jesus’ open arms. She found the Lord for herself.  And she took her son to church faithfully till her problems overcame her.

The baby, by the way, is in college.  And doing fine.

But- truth be told- mostly because of Patty.  Selma tried hard, but her addictions and mental issues remained. Patty, for the baby’s sake, bought a house for him and Selma. She made sure they had reliable transportation. She bought his school clothes, and stocked the house with groceries when needed. She kept him at her house when Selma was having a really rough spell.

My husband and I took him to Disney twice with us when we took our own kids, but basically, Patty made sure he had a reasonably normal household.  

Selma took her own life by a drug overdose in May. Patty’s car was slammed against a concrete barrier on the freeway by a drunk drive in April. She broke 30 bones, and finally succumbed to her issues (after brain surgery) on July 2.

My point?  They have both now stood before their maker.

They both were (ostensibly) church- going. 

Selma, however, could have a host of sins (social and/or Biblical) attributed to her: mental issues, drug-addiction, loose sexual morals, birth out of wedlock, theft to fuel drug addiction before motherhood (and maybe after), welfare case, self-absorbed, prone to anger and backbiting (she was).  

Patty?  Sure. She had her share of flaws, but she was a successful business owner. She was wealthy. She was a good friend, a good listener, attractive, generous, well-liked. And very self-sacrificial when the nephew (she had argued against!) arrived.

For the better part of the population, I think, it would be clear which one of them had the best chance of passing through those pearly gates.   

But we know better. Because Jesus himself told us what the litmus test is:  

He wants everybody to live forever with him:

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

We all hear God’s voice:

they shall all be taught by God. (John 6:45)

Those who listen to that voice come to Him:

Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45)

There are, therefore, two types of people in the world. Those who build their house on sand, and those who build it on the rock: 

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

His sheep hear His voice, in other words, and that makes all the difference.

And All God’s people said “Amen”

I purposely gave this piece the subtitle “Farewell to Patty and Selma", rather than my original title, “Requiem for Patty and Selma” because Patty lived a few months between her accident and her death.  Completely immobilized and largely unable to talk.

(As the opinionated soul that she was that alone might have killed her.)

And I have no idea, besides family members, what visitors she may have had. I know how many times I spoke the truth to her (that only Jesus was the way, the truth and the life).  I am sure that, a captive audience, she must have also heard the Good News from others.

My hope is that when I see my Lord face to face she’ll be there, waving and smiling and saying “Surprise”! 

My hope is that she now treasures the truth contained in my favorite verse:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in his presence blameless with great joy!  (Jude 1:24)

My hope is, in the presence of their savior, Patty and Selma finally get along.

Nothing is too difficult for Him!

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: A Most Serendipitous Species



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