By Elizabeth Stephens
One summer morning, out of the blue, James turned to me and said, “The LORD spoke to me when I awoke. Today, you are going to meet Mr. Lascar.”
That’s my Dad, David. “Okay,” I thought and went off to do something else.
The phone rang later that morning and James said, “It’s Adrian.”
My sister was calling from Hawaii. She had been living there for a few years and was soon to be married. She explained to me that her Pastor had encouraged her to invite our parents to the wedding. She didn’t expect a reply, but in obedience had sent off an invitation. She said, “David wrote me back.” She was surprised and read the letter to me. In it David commented that it was his first written correspondence in the last thirty years. His wife, Selma had done everything for him (including telling him what to think and when to think it). Now she was dying. She had gone in for an operation and shortly after the doctors had opened her up, they saw cancer had spread throughout her body, closed her up and sent her home to die.
It was difficult to process. At the same time, I thought, “Wow. How amazing this is transpiring,” as I thought back to James’ comment that very morning. (In retrospect, now I realize that it was not David who wrote a letter to me saying “Give your children to the Buddha”, but it was Selma, impersonating David).
After finishing my call with Adrian, I realized that we needed some assuring guidance or insight on this difficult matter. It had been nineteen years since I had seen my father David. James called up the church we were attending and talked to the pastor of the day. When he found out it was one of the young men going to seminary, he felt it was too complex to explain, and so politely declined their help, said thank you and instead at that moment decided to call some friends and have them pray for us. We could only get a hold of our friend Lucky. Then James said, “Let’s pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.”
After we got done praying, James said, “I believe the LORD is directing us to get the children dressed up, pick up some flowers and drive to their house in Malibu. I had no idea what to expect. Had Selma already died? We only knew that we must proceed in faith. We loaded up our three children and drove from Canyon Country to Malibu about an hour drive away, a distance of some thirty plus miles.
As our green Volkswagen bus pulled up to their house a young woman was coming out. I was getting Taylor, who was six months old, out of her car seat and James walked up to the woman and said, “Marcy?” He had never met my half sisters, but knew their names. How he managed to get the right name with the right person was just the Lord.
She responded, “Yes, who are you?”
He said, “I’m Elizabeth Stephens’ husband.”
She was somewhat puzzled. “I don’t know any Elizabeth Stephens.”
James said, “You may remember her as Liz Lascar.”
“Sure. Oh, Lizzy!”
“Elizabeth heard that Selma was not doing well.”
Marcy, responded, “No she’s not. In fact, she just returned this morning from the hospital.”
James asked, “Elizabeth wanted to visit her and David.”
Marcy said, “David’s out, but she can come in. Let me go in and tell her.”
James then came to the VW and told me and we got the children ready to go in. I noticed that Marcy had gone inside. My heart sank. Marcy reappeared and said, “Please come in. I’m just heading off to work, but Marilyn is inside.” So we all walked in together, but didn’t know what to expect.
The house was absolutely immaculate, a grand piano, white coaches, huge floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean and a beautiful flower garden in full bloom with purple lavender flowers, crimson red bougainvilleas, and red azaleas.
Marilyn was inside and greeted us as we entered. She said, “Hi Liz” like nothing had ever happened. “Dad’s not here.” As you can imagine my head was spinning. Marilyn showed James and I and the children into the living area and then she said, “I’ll let Selma know you’re here.”
I heard Marilyn go into the bedroom and say, “Lizzy is here.” I heard an audible groan. It was very disturbing. I was ushered into a bedroom and there was Selma lying in a hospital bed. I took a seat next to the bed as my family waited in the living room. Selma would not even look at me and would not even speak to me.
This reminds me of the story of Jane Eyre, a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. In the novel, Jane Eyre, a young girl suffered abuse under her Aunt after her parents died. Years later after much suffering and deprivation, she was sent for by her abusive Aunt as she lay dying. The relative’s intent was to clear her conscience and tell Jane that another relative had come looking for her years earlier to bestow a fortune on her to which the Aunt falsely reported Jane’s death. Jane Eyre though hurt, believed in God and told her Aunt that she forgave her, but the women would not hear of this and died shortly thereafter.
Likewise, Selma would not open her eyes nor even acknowledge my presence. I said, “Hello.” She would not utter a single word.
All of a sudden the front door opened and I heard David come in. He was talking to James and for the first time they met face to face. David was also amazed at seeing his grandchildren. (He did not have any grandchildren through his other children at the time). I got up from Selma’s bedside and entered the living room. There was David, my earthly father. I felt very strange. I had prayed for this so many times. I had always felt that David would die first. But here he was. David did not know what to say. He said, “Hello.” But I can’t remember much more.
All that he could get out to James was, “How can you ever forgive me?” James did share the forgiveness that he had known from Jesus and the subject was shortly changed. But he did listen. He was uncomfortable and stepped outside for a smoke in the garden with James.
When he came back in, James said, “Well, I guess we should be heading out.”
David, said, “Have some dinner.” What could we say? We were surprised and the next thing we found ourselves being ushered into their kitchen and seated while Marilyn prepared some food. Never before had I dined in their kitchen all those years and now they were making us a meal! Scripture raced through my mind, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5). As I thought back to my early days, so many feelings came flooding back.
As we sat at the table, we talked about the Scriptures and Marilyn marveled on how well we knew Torah. She said, “And I work for a Jewish agency! I’m going have to study more!” It was all in good humor. And yet, it was a strangely surreal.
I never made it back into Selma’s room, yet I was okay with that. It was time to leave and David took down our phone number saying he would call us soon. We left and talked all the way home about all that had happened.