Sorrow and Joy


Sorrow and joy—two words that seem contradictory, but describe the breadth of emotion in my heart as I adjust to life without my beloved husband. There is so much in my life that gives me great joy.  At the same time, there is much that can bring me into the dark valley of sorrow in a split second. Keeping my equilibrium steady requires me to make daily, deliberate decisions. One of the most important is making decisions about what i think about.

This i know. . . Not one of us is able to keep sorrow under control and joy flowing freely without guarding (and guiding) ones thoughts. It would be easier to control the direction of a massive tornado than to control sorrow without bringing every thought into subjection. Even a wild horse can be subdued in a corral. Therefore, I know it is important that I  carefully and deliberately choose what I think about, especially when my mind is flooded with all kinds of thoughts and memories in this time of adjusting to a different life.

I’ve found that some thoughts need to be immediately tossed and rejected as unprofitable. Other thoughts are sweet, yet need to be controlled and pondered when I am alone (and free to cry). But other thoughts pass the “whatsoever things are lovely” test and are a crucial part of living each day in the spirit of Psalms 118:24. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we (I) will rejoice and be glad in it. Thoughts, whether good or bad, are building blocks of emotion.  So if we desire joy and peace, we need to fill our minds with those wonderful Philippians 4:8, true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praise worthy thoughts.  I suppose if one prefers to be miserable, it can easily be accomplished by focusing thoughts around worrying, complaining, criticizing, surmising and picturing worst case scenarios. But I definitely like the other alternative better, so that’s my plan! 

It’s taken me awhile, but I am able to occasionally look at family pictures, listen to videos of Tom singing, or just reflect on memories that are precious to me. I’ve found it helpful to deliberately set aside time in which to do this. At the same time, I limit grieving, and always conclude times of reflection with prayer and thanksgiving. Tears can be a good release of tension, but indulged in too long, they can steal the joy that is the core of my strength. (…for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10). Besides, too many tears can also leave me with a huge headache and cause poor Hugo (the dog) distress!  No, I can’t control the things that trigger tears or an instantaneous longing for the familiarity of my life as it once was. Teary times just happen and are a part of adjusting  to a new life. The way I’m able to regain composure is by redirecting my thoughts, comforting myself with (preselected) scripture or occupying my mind with thoughts of ongoing projects. However, I can not predict or prevent moments in which I simply miss Tom. Like when I hear myself singing in church and miss hearing his strong tenor voice next to me that used to  make mine sound good! Or when the thought, “Tom would have loved this…” pops into my head. Or when I hear myself saying goodnight to the dog and Alexa. 

Sad thoughts are a normal part of grief, but if sad thoughts are allowed to linger, I know self pity is knocking at the front door.  While I can’t control who knocks on my door, I can control who I invite inside my home! Likewise, I have a choice to indulge unhappy thoughts, or refuse to let them in. I have a choice whether I stand by the door and listen to them, or walk away and direct my attention elsewhere. Yes, my human heart wants to accept self-pities’ invitation to party, but the still small voice of God ‘s Spirit nudges me and I tell myself, “Don’t do it. Self pity is a’ weapon of mass destruction that takes down even the strongest Christian.” Bottom line—if I let my guard down and do not rule my own spirit and bring EVERY thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), l leave my heart open to a very sneaky enemy that is all too eager to crush joy and make a quick end of comfort. Sometimes I need to tell myself, “No! We are not going there! End of discussion.”

Many have asked how I’m doing, what I’m doing and how they can help. The Lord has been merciful beyond my imagination and has more than supplied all my needs. I’m slowly getting the house repairs finished, and am able to take on some light counseling and speaking. My emotions are still fragile at times, so I’m avoiding the emotional strain of more difficult counseling, but little by little, I’m able to do more. Staying focused can be a challenge, but as I continue to move forward and stay engaged with others, I’m finding joy in daily life, even in the midst of missing Tom’s fellowship, love and laughter. 

I do have a very full fall schedule that is going to be quite demanding (prayer appreciated), but I am also looking forward to it. I’m excited about an upcoming trip to Israel. This past month I enjoyed having one of our grandchildren with me for a couple weeks and then traveling to Michigan to help my cousin post knee replacement surgery. Needless to say, I have no lack of things to do and projects waiting on the back burner. I do miss Tom as much or more than ever, but I am daily comforted by the shepherding care and love of our awesome God. Spending time with the Lord, studying His Word, and reflecting on His goodness keeps me anchored and filled with hope as I ponder His amazing promises that are as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow.  One of the sweetest of these promises . . .

And He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 55:17)


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Mrs., Ms. or Mx?

Yep, you saw that right, Mx. It has been announced that Mx (pronounced mux or mix – a commonly recognised gender-neutral title) will be added to the Oxford English Dictionary. I came across this while searching for title etiquette for widows. My question is this: How does one address a widow, or more importantly, how does a widow address herself? Is she a Mrs. or should she be Ms.?  

Many are proposing the elimination of all titles added to a name. I’m one of those who believes titles have value, when used appropriately, and should not be discarded. Sure, some use titles as a status symbol and like to be part of a hierarchy of some kind.  Most people, however, simply regard titles as something that identifies significant information about a person or conveys an attitude of appropriate respect.

For instance, when someone earns the rank of Colonel and serves in the military until retirement, his rank continues to be listed before his name like this: Colonel James So and So, USAF, Retired. It shows respect for an officer who has an earned rank and who served in the military honorably until retirement. If the officer leaves the military before he earns full retirement or is dishonorably discharged, the title would be dropped. In a similar way, we  refer to former presidents of the United States as President So and So, or, Former President So and So, or the Honorable Mr. So and So. It is appropriate to give such honor to one who has held such a high office. We also give respect to Pastors who have served faithfully until retirement by continuing to use the title, Pastor So and So when we address them in a formal setting. In fact, the Bible instructs us to give “double honor” to pastors who lead well.

I was happy to learn that when addressing widows, it is still appropriate to continue using a woman’s married title, Mrs. before her name unless one has a personal preference otherwise. There are no hard, fast rules, so preferences rule the day. I happen to like the title Mrs. and consider it an honor to be remembered as Mrs. Pryde. I am one of those who have a strong distaste for the modern title Ms. but I admit it’s more a generational thing. Because Ms. became the calling card of radical feminists way back in my teen years, I still bristle when I hear a woman refer to herself as Ms. (pronounced mizz). The truth is, it’s not really a bad idea, and was actually proposed in 1901 by a newspaper writer who was seeking a tactfully ambiguous compromise between Miss and Mrs. when neither title fit. Kind of like the male title Mr. that applies to any male, married or single, young or old. I’m ok with it, but my preference is to avoid Ms. I like Mrs. Debi Pryde just fine.

Since I have no intention of going back to my maiden name and I am not in the market for a new married name, I’ll just stick to the name I’ve had for nearly fifty years. It’s an honor, actually. Since Tom is no longer here, I probably won’t refer to myself as Mrs. Tom Pryde in most situations, but I will continue to refer to myself as Mrs. Debi Pryde. You can call me whatever you want, but please note, there is no “i” in our name. smile

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

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What about wedding rings after death?


Perhaps you recall the day you married your sweetheart and repeated solemn marriage vows followed by the words, “til death do us part…” Said one woman to me, “Does this mean that I should remove my wedding ring now that I am a widow?” Being a new widow, I replied, “Let me think about this before I answer.” Several months have passed since then, and after thinking about it, I am ready to give her  an answer.

The giving of wedding rings didn’t originate in a Biblical command, but from a custom that historians tell us began in ancient Rome. Tradition says that the ring represents eternal love, having no beginning or end. It’s a nice sentiment and I think an appropriate custom for a believer. But I would remind you, it is just a custom—not a biblical mandate. There are no “rules” a believer is compelled to follow with regard to wedding rings! That being the case, we are at liberty to wear, or not wear, a wedding ring after the death of a spouse. I have decided to continue wearing mine and here are my reasons why.

First, if the ring represents eternal love between myself and Tom, nothing has changed except my marital status. Tom is living in Heaven, I will one day live in Heaven, and we will continue to love one another throughout eternity. No, there is no marriage in Heaven according to the Bible, but there is perfect and enduring love there! Since love (not marriage) is eternal, I’m content to leave the ring Tom designed for me on my hand, until death do I also part. After that, I will not care what’s done with my wedding rings. (Gold is just pavement in Heaven.)

Second, a woman who openly wears a wedding ring signals (to anyone who might wonder) that she is not looking for a new spouse. Sure, the widow is no longer bound by a marriage vow and is at liberty to be married to whom she will, according to 1 Corinthians 7:39. But note that word “liberty.” That means she is free to remarry, or not. I propose we begin a new custom. Widows who are not looking for a new spouse, and are happy to remain widowed, should continue wearing their wedding rings after the death of their spouse. That way, people can know they are content to be widows and aren’t available for dates. And, should she change her mind, the removing of the rings would signal she is open to exploring a potential marital relationship. As for me, I am taking the advice of the Apostle Paul who said, “but she (the widow) is happier if she so abide (as a single widow) . . .”  (1 Corinthians 7:40) If I change my mind, I’ll take off my rings. Until then, the rings let you know I’m not in the market for a husband.

Third, wearing my wedding rings gives a layer of protection when I am traveling among strangers, and when I do business with people I do not know. I’d prefer the gentleman sitting next to me on a plane get an immediate, visual signal that I am not available. Wedding rings can symbolize more than eternal love—they can symbolize “not available,” and squelch flirting. Or “not alone,” and better not swindle. Wedding rings can be a kind way of saying, “Back off.”

Fourth, I am very fond of sparkly, pretty things and I like the way they look on my hand! I think gold and diamonds are far too beautiful to put in a little box and tuck away in a drawer. Besides, I’d lose them if I took them off.

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.(1 Corinthians 7:39-40)


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Love Doesn’t Die


I thoroughly loved my life with Tom, from our first date in 1969 at a Detroit Auto Show until his very last breath on January 14, 2018, as I sat next to him. I was surprised at how quietly he slipped out of this life into the next, out of my view but into the presence of all who were awaiting his arrival in Heaven. I don’t imagine he is missing life on earth, but I do wonder if he knows how much he is missed. Sometimes waves of sadness roll over me at quiet times when my heart is longing for that familiar touch of kindred love and the laughter and conversation of marriage partners who are also the best of friends. It’s in those moments that I miss him most, for I am in love with him now just as much as I ever was. Although his body lies silent in the grave and his soul has taken up residence in Heaven, my fervent love for him has not died even one iota. Perhaps that’s what Solomon meant when he wrote that, “love is strong as death.” When a beloved one dies, we don’t stop loving them—not if what we shared was authentic love. Our hearts may certainly expand to love others, just as we love every child and grandchild no matter how many we have. But I am convinced that nothing ends love, not even death. It might change it, but it does not end it.

Count on it–Tom and I will laugh together once again when we meet for the first time in Heaven! We will thank our God for the years He gave us as husband and wife and praise Him for the eternity He will give us as beloved brother and sister in Christ. In that moment our love will know it’s greatest fulfillment and experience its greatest joys. Best of all, it will go on forever.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. (Song of Songs 8:7)


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Life goes on

fullsizeoutput_1133At the moment, I’m in the air, high above the clouds, headed to Michigan and preparing to begin a week of classes at Camp CoBeAc. Hugo was distressed to see a suitcase by the door this morning, but he is in good hands with live-in dog and house sitters holding the fort!  This is the first I’ve traveled for a long while, so it seems a bit strange to be headed for a conference without Tom reading over my material, fixing my powerpoints, giving me pep talks and praying for the meetings. He’s been such a big part of the speaking ministry I’ve been privileged to enjoy. I would never have embarked on such an endeavor without his encouragement and help!

When i first began to accept speaking invitations, our kids were grown and Tom was a busy executive for Raytheon Corporation. He did a lot of traveling and usually timed his business traveling around mine. Many times, we went to the airport together and flew in different directions! When he became ill, he insisted I continue to keep up the speaking and writing while he would retire early from Raytheon and work with Pacific Baptist College while waiting for his lung transplant. Even when he became weak with complications over the past 5 years post-transplant, he insisted I keep going and use honorariums to fly one of the kids out for a visit while I was gone. Looking back, I realize those one-on-one visits with our precious grown children were one of the highlights of his life. I’m so thankful they were able to come and give such enjoyment to their dad. Even after Tom became too ill for me to travel, he repeated often that he wanted me to continue and not think about quitting.

I don’t know how much our loved ones know about things happening on earth, but I imagine the angels encamped around my home (Psalms 34:7) talk to the angels ministering to Tom in Heaven (Hebrews 1:14). My guess is that Tom smiled with approval to hear that I’m in the air again, headed for a meeting. It’s a fun thought, anyway. Just for the record, I think the writer of the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer” got it wrong when he wrote that we will say “farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer” when we leave earth for our heavenly home with the Lord. Prayer is communing with God, and people in Heaven are definitely communing with Him in perfect harmony! I don’t see evidence saints in Heaven don’t pray! Certainly, their perspective is different, and their opportunity to live by faith is over, but communion with our Lord would only be more full and sweet and requests more purified by an understanding that we don’t have down here. Someone ought to write a better line for that song!

The picture at the top of this page was taken from the resting place of Tom’s body—it is the view we will have when we hear the trumpet of God and reunite with our transformed body that only God can resurrect in perfection! “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) What a glorious day! But until then, I will happily meet the Lord in the air in an airplane, and land back on earth where I will be delighted to continue serving Him as He gives opportunities!

Having a meaningful life with an eternal purpose changes the way we handle disappointment and sadness. It greatly cushions turbulence in our lives. Time isn’t what heals the heart—the Lord does, for all who embrace Him fully. Don’t misunderstand, I will deeply miss coming home in a few days to the warm embrace of my sweetheart and talking about all the blessings of a good meeting. And I will fight tears for sure. But I will also be filled with joy because that’s just what happens when we love the Lord, serve others and see His unmistakable hand working in our lives. Even in sad times.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  (Psalms 147:3)




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In the ER Again?

I’ve received many thoughtful emails and texts this week as loved ones have wondered how I am doing, and what I’m doing. Here’s the latest update.

Tonight I’m sitting in a familiar place (the ER) and thinking to myself—this is a “Trumpetlungs” moment! So, here’s the story. My cousin came for Tom’s service and decided to winter in sunny California rather than return immediately to her home in the frigid north. We’ve been “hanging out,” as my grandkids like to say, and fitting in visits with family and a few fun excursions in-between working on some redecorating projects, etc. Somewhere along the way, Marilyn picked up the flu which has now become a case of pneumonia as well. She’s had a history of very serious health problems recently, so to be on the safe side, the doctor has just admitted her to the hospital. Not sure how long she will be here, but I’ve smuggled in some mint brownies to her hospital room, which should speed recovery provided they give her coffee to go with them. She says hi and thank you for praying!

A real time picture of my beloved fun cousin, Marilyn:


What’s been going on other than this? I’ve actually been quite busy getting a lot of things back in order after a long period of “caregiver neglect.” Those of you who have lived the life of constant caregiving know exactly what I’m talking about—we tend to prioritize the caregiving as first priority and rank everything else under it. The more involved the caregiving, the more our mundane tasks drop off the radar and get relegated to the “it will have to wait” pile. And when the long season of caregiving is over, the pile of things that had to wait scream for attention! The roses would still be waiting if it weren’t for good friends who have been working hard to get them back in shape. (The blooms this spring should be spectacular! You are welcome to visit during the peak month of May.) Thanks to other good friends, my garage actually looks like a garage rather than a storage shed and lots of things are finding new homes where they will be appreciated! I have a lot left to do, but I’m encouraged with the progress.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on transferring accounts and developing a budget and a financial strategy I’m comfortable with. Tom left me with things in order and provided for my welfare, but he wisely understood I wouldn’t be working things out on an Excel spreadsheet in his executive manner of doing things! I’m thankful he gave me complete support and freedom to rearrange things after his departure, but with freedom comes responsibility and a greater need for wisdom and discernment. Needless to say, time with the Lord before I start my day has been the single most important thing I do to maintain emotional equilibrium.

Yes, I continue to experience profound grief as I miss Tom immensely. When two people’s lives are interwoven as tightly as ours were, for as long as ours were, the changes in everyday life and reminders of a loved one’s absence are constant. Adjustment is going to take time. I tend to be a private mourner, but there are times when grief spills out when least expected. I consider this a part of readjusting as well as a good, not bad, time of remembering. Sometimes it’s good to take time to cry, before redirecting my attention and focus forward. By far, the most difficult day of the week is Sunday and most difficult time of the day, evening.

I believe grief is a natural human response to loss, regardless whether we are Christian believers. It is a complex reaction that sometimes brings us into the darkest valley of human experience at some time in our lives. Our great consolation as believers is that Jesus promised to go through it with us, and that is a precious promise that is truly incredible, for the only way through it is through it. Even more wonderful, our Lord promises to strengthen and sustain us as we lean on Him and trust Him with our sorrows. “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22) Christians should never make their permanent abode in the fog of sorrow, but are to press forward, through it, the Lord leading us ever onward.

The peace of God is freely poured out upon those who come to the well of living water—Jesus Christ Himself. Because believers enjoy the benefits of the indwelling Christ who, (as well as the Holy Spirit and God the Father) comforts them, they have a wonderful resource available that enables them to find peace, even in the midst of life’s deepest sorrows and disappointments. “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given [us] everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thess. 2:16-17) This truth makes all the difference in the world when we experience sorrow. The comfort of the Lord has been a reality every day as I have walked with Him and brought Him all my cares.

Questions I’ve been asked . . .

Someone asked, “What’s the worst thing someone has said to you since Tom’s home going?” Wow, that’s a tough question to answer! I’ve been surrounded by so many loving and thoughtful people that it’s not at the forefront of my mind. I think the hardest thing to hear are comments that weave through the “grapevine” suggesting I need to remarry. Friends, let me assure you that no grieving heart that is very much in love with a spouse, though in Heaven, finds this amusing or comforting. Rather, it is actually quite grievous. Right now, I would rather be the widow of Tom Pryde than the wife of any other man. And I suspect I will say this until I, too, enter Heaven.

Someone asked, “Are you going to be moving soon?” No! I have no plans to leave California, sell my house, join another church, drop any ministry or change what I’ve been doing. Lord willing, I will continue speaking, writing, counseling, teaching TLC, and serving at Lighthouse Baptist Church.

Someone asked, “What is your greatest need right now?” Besides needing to master the smart TV and a plethora of other “smart” house gadgets that have me in derision daily, I need wisdom to make decisions and solve the logistics of a solo life. Looming ahead, after settling the basic issues of living and getting house repairs done, is the need to find someone who can redo and manage my website. I have some very specific ideas, so this is a huge matter of prayer right now.

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:21-25)

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Who Am I?

This past week I’ve been tackling the job of changing all our joint accounts, closing some, reopening others in my own name, reporting Tom’s death to those who need to know and in general, figuring out what my new budget will be and constructing a much simpler management style than Tom liked. He’s the “number” person—I am most definitely not. Nevertheless, I’m dusting off my math skills and plunging in as a matter of necessity.  I decided I couldn’t live with ugly green folders stored in dreary brown containers, so that was a matter of great importance. I feel much better about numbers on papers now that they are beautifully arranged in color coordinated pink, blue and purple sparkly folders. Color is therapy.

As I’ve poured through files and papers, I hear Tom’s quips and wisdom regarding money, and sometimes it makes me chuckle. Like, “Money is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.” “If you don’t rule it, it will rule you.” He loved to tell our kids growing up, “It’s true God feeds the sparrow but He doesn’t throw the food into their nests.” In his instructions to me about paying attention to funds he would often add, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” Translation? “Balance the checkbook, know where the money is going, and make it work for you. Don’t eat it.” I think colorful folders rank up there with necessities, like food for the flocks…

I’ve been handed papers to sign all week and on a number of occasions I’ve noticed they state my marital status as “widowed.” Kind of a jolting reality to see it in print. As I was driving home from one appointment where I had to check the “widowed” box, I laughed, remembering the popular recommendation in current grief counseling that widows should refuse to think of themselves as widows. Right. So what box do I mark?! The popular theory is that referring to one’s self as a widow hinders establishing a new identity. Just so you know, I happen to think this is nonsense. I’m widowed—it’s my marital status. I wholly embrace it and I am not afraid that admitting it will somehow warp my sense of identity or keep me in some kind of dark hole! The last thing in the world I want to become is a walking bruise that yelps every time someone mentions the word.

First of all, I am the same person I was when my husband was here, and I have the same identity now that I did a month ago. I did not become a different person the day Tom entered Heaven. One’s identity does not change when one’s spouse dies or when one matures and grows throughout life. I propose to you that a believer’s identity stays exactly the same. I am, above all else, a child of God—and that never changes. It’s the one constant in life that steadies the ship no matter where it sails. What may change throughout my life are the titles that describe what I do, where I live, my marital status, my accomplishments, education or talents that I may be known by.

For instance, one day I may be employed and another I might be retired. One day I am a mommy with baby in tow, and another I am grandma. If I sing solos in my youth, but not in my old age, I am no longer a soloist, but I might be a choir member. Yesterday I had a student ID card—today I carry my senior advantage card. See what I mean? Life is constantly changing the titles by which we are called. And that’s quite normal. The description of “widow” simply identifies my marital status at this moment in my earthly life— it does not have anything to do with who I am. But the baby boomer title? Well now, that’s another story. Once a boomer, always a boomer. (just kidding)

How do I identify myself? I am much more than the titles by which I am called on this earth, the relationships I enjoy or the accomplishments and talents I have developed. These things mean nothing in comparison to who I am in God’s eyes, for I am, above all things, a beloved child of God. Let’s make light of the word “widow” and remember, instead, the descriptions that reveal who we truly are. Repeat after me . . .

1. I am created in His image.
2. I am redeemed,
3. I am His workmanship
4. I am forgiven,
5. I am accepted
6. I am justified, innocent by reason of Christ’s imputed righteousness, clean, washed
7. I am, holy, set apart
8. I am a joint-heir with Christ
9. I am royalty, a daughter of the King
10. I am an eternal soul temporarily living in a mortal body
11. I am the temple of God, united with His Spirit forever, one with Christ
12. I am a citizen of Heaven – a pilgrim on earth
13. I am a victorious conqueror, free from the bondage of sin
14. I am an ambassador of Heaven – I am a light
15. I am known and loved by God

As a closing note . . . I finalized my decision for the wording on Tom’s headstone. I thought of writing, as have others, “beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend,” but the list could go on and on. I think “Beloved of the Lord” would be most fitting for a child of God. But then, I decided Tom isn’t the kind of person who likes titles at all. He’s more the engineer and less the artist. So his headstone just says, “Tom Pryde II, 1951 – 2018.” The rest of the space on the plain bronze plaque is filled with God’s Word, which says, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:26a) Now, just so you know. . . when I’m gone, I’d appreciate it if you would sprinkle some glitter on my headstone and maybe add my grandmother’s famous advice, “Don’t get sick—it’s not good for you.”

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)

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