Loretta was a lover. She loved her children, her pets, the wild cats that live on the Ranch, and the bunny rabbits. She was a rescuer of stray and hurt animals. She couldn’t pass an animal loose on the street without trying to help it see its way home. A little over ten years ago, she found me, wounded by the side of the road. She took me in and together we lived an adventure.
When I met her Loretta was working as a charge nurse at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda and raising her two teenagers, Nathan and Elaina. She was a single mom, with all of the challenges that comes with that. She was completing a masters program as a nurse practitioner. The year of our courtship was exciting. We were married on April 28, 2001 in Las Vegas and honeymooned in ocean bungalows and scuba dived and snorkeled in crystal clear waters in Tahiti. On the way home we almost got tattoos. I have to tell you that I am the one who chickened out.
When we got home it wasn’t long before a job change took us to Bakersfield for a year. I worked with my friend Jim Hanson in his law practice, Elaina started college and Loretta demonstrated her decorating skills! She loved to paint and pick out exotic colors. Inspired by the pastel colors of a print over our fireplace she had our living room walls glowing with lime green, turquoise blue, melon, and I think tangerine. Each home we lived in (and we did move five times in our ten year marriage, Loretta painted and decorated.
While we were living in Bakersfield we decided to bring Benjamin into the world. The pregnancy was exciting and in the middle of it we moved to an apartment in Huntington Beach. Benjamin was born on Thanksgiving day, 2002. While maintaining her licenses and certifications, Loretta made loving and caring for Ben her full-time job. And she came to that job with all of the energy and verve that she brought to all of the things that she enjoyed.
During those years we took our first trips to Hawaii for Vacation. Loretta would shop the airline tickets, the accommodations and the activities for our trips. Ben wasn’t walking when we made our first trip to Honolulu. Loretta had been planning our spring vacation to Hawaii since last fall when she determined that we were going to go. By shopping at thrift stores and selling her discoveries on E-bay she had the money for our plane tickets in about two months and the condo deposits weren’t far behind. We were scheduled to leave next Friday. For the last several weeks Loretta had been getting ready to go. Lists were being made. Rental cars were being priced. She weeded her flower bed, mowed the back yard and was cleaning the house. She bought new snorkel gear for her and Ben. The suitcases were packed about ten days ago!
Ben and I have decided to postpone that vacation. We can’t imagine taking it without mommie. We’ll go again soon, just not now.
Loretta was also the life of the party. She brought the party with her! Laughing, dancing, wearing a funny hat, she enjoyed every moment with her friends and family.
Loretta was a follower of Jesus. Raised and baptized in the Assemblies of God she was an “in the wild” Christian, like myself when we met. So we have hope. Those of us who know Loretta imagine that she is swimming in the River of Life and telling the Lord she’ll be at the banquet table after she spends a little more time looking at the exotic heavenly water life! Loretta’s father, Harold Daniels, died last year after a long illness. And now I imagine that they are together, maybe spending a little time playing penny poker or yahtzee, just hanging out. Loretta was the baby of her family and she was her daddy’s girl. Her mom, Wanda, who has prayed and sustained her family through the years, is facing her own challenges battling cancer. The two of them would talk about once a week for an hour. Loretta had a headset and she would walk around the house, washing dishes, tending to laundry, hands free while they talked. I would overhear her praying with her mom as their conversations were closing.
My close friends and family know that last year, while Loretta was going through her father’s last illness and death, I suffered a nervous break-through. I was having a tough time resolving psychological issues that had been festering since my teenage years. After the storm had passed, Loretta and I would joke that I was “crazier than a hoot owl” during that time. Loretta not only weathered that storm, but in my heart I know that she prayed me through it.
Loretta’s three older brothers and sisters are here today. They are all suffering at the loss of their baby sister. Loretta loved you guys deeply. Her nieces and nephews are here. Some have driven over 2000 miles in the last two days to get here.
Loretta was a mom. She loved Elaina and Nathan. They were the joy of her life. She raised them while she was growing up herself. Loretta educated herself along the way. She had stopped high school to get married and bring Nathan into the world but over the years she got two junior college degrees and became an RN. She went on to get a Bachelors in Nursing and a Masters. She was a licensed nurse practitioner. For the last several weeks she was studying for the renewal exam on her certification.
She was a hospital corpsman in the US Navy and was called up to active duty and was a veteran of the first Gulf War.
Elaina has followed in her mom’s footsteps, she and Sean are the parents of four beautiful children who were the apple of Grandma’s eye. We attended that annual grandkids birthday bash two weeks ago today. Last year while her son Nathan was working for me for a few weeks he and his mom got to spend some extended time together.
Last summer Loretta and my daughter Valerie went Magic Mountain and rode all of those big roller coasters! I know that all of the grandkids have fond memories of times spent with her.
Last year on Easter weekend Loretta went with me to visit my mothers grave. I hadn’t been there for over twenty years. It took us a while to find the headstone. When I read the inscription the last line read: Love Never Dies. Loretta cried with me with her arm around my shoulder as I finally said goodby to my mom. Today we are saying goodby to Loretta. But because of our love and faith in God and our trust in his Son Jesus Christ and with the comfort and the presence of his Holy Spirit, I know we will be together again.
You see, we are born with a serious and terminal condition, called “Life in this world.” Not one of us escape it. It is only our ability to ignore the fact that we are all dying and that life is short, that allows us to pursue those unimportant things that occupy our busy and driven lives. In the end it is our relationships, the love that we share with our family and friends that goes with us into eternity. It’s our love and memories of Loretta that will live on in our hearts.
Those of us who have taken the leap of faith to follow Jesus, know that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit got together before this world came into being, before mankind came into existence, and saw all of the sorrow and pain that we would experience. They also saw the joy that we could and would find in our lives with one another and in eternity together with them and all of those who have gone on before. So they formed a conspiracy to rescue us from what was to come and it culminated when Jesus took on all of the pain and suffering of our lives. And then, after dying on the cross, rose again to eternal life defeating death. The beauty of God’s plan is that it requires no effort on our part. It is a gift. If you haven’t received his gift, then consider it’s the only cure for the disease that we all have. Loretta and I believed that it doesn’t take a religious indoctrination to come to God. It’s as simple as opening up your heart and mind and saying, “Here I am, Lord. I’ve tried it on my own, I’d like to try it with you for a while.” Take a minute and pray that simple prayer. I can assure you that in life’s most overwhelming moments it will make all of the difference in the world.