A bright light was extinguished in the universe on January 13, 2004, when twenty-one-year old Rebekah Swanson, a college senior, died in a car accident. In More Than Can Be Measured, author Rona Swanson, Rebekah’s mother, shares her thoughts, feelings, and emotions as she and the family deal with their grief in the aftermath of Rebekah’s sudden death.Weaving in entries from Rebekah’s journal and photos, this memoir shares the wisdom and understanding Swanson gained as she felt the stark pain of the loss of her daughter. More Than Can Be Measured narrates the story of how she sustained herself and her family through God—the anchor and strength of her faith.An intense look into shattering loss, More Than Can Be Measured shows the sweet and gentle way God tended to Swanson’s wounds and healed her damaged heart. It communicates there is hope and help from God.
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More Than Can Be Measured
By Rona Swanson
CrossBooksCopyright © 2012 Rona Swanson
All rights reserved.
A Call in the Night
The phone is ringing. The room is pitch dark. I stumble to pick it up, noticing that the time is a little after 2 a.m.
"Is this Rona Swanson?"
"There is a policeman at your door."
"This is the Visalia Police Department. There is a policeman at your door. Didn't you hear him?"
"No. I was asleep. Let me just look out the window and see if he is at our home."
I walked to the window and peeked down through the blinds from our second story bedroom. Sure enough, I could see a black and white cruiser parked in our driveway. I picked up the phone again. "Yes, I can see his car," I said. "I will go downstairs and answer the door."
Pulling on jeans and a shirt, I ran down the stairs and opened the front door for the officer standing there, inviting him in.
"Are you alone?" he asked.
I looked up at him, a bit confused. "No," I said.
"Who else is here?" he asked.
If anyone other than a police officer was asking this, I thought ... but answered, "My husband is upstairs."
"Go get him," the officer instructed.
I went up the stairs to get my husband Sam. He was already awake and I explained that there was a police officer downstairs wanting to talk to us. We both went back downstairs and the officer stood and faced us.
"I have very bad news," he said, drawing a deep breath. "This is the hardest part of my job."
I smiled encouragement to him as he drew himself up to speak.
"I have very bad news," he repeated.
I nodded at him to continue.
"Are you Rona Swanson?" he asked me.
"Do you have a daughter named Rebekah Swanson?"
I could hear my heart ...thump, thump, thump as I answered, "I do."
Time slowed. The officer's eyes showed pain as he opened his mouth. My own heart was pounding, making my body feel its throb. The officer licked his lips and continued, "Rebekah was in an auto accident tonight," he said, "and she did not survive."
Sam made a sound as if he had received a physical blow and I saw him staggering to the couch, holding his chest. Sam had suffered a heart attack seven years before.
"Lord," I prayed, "don't let me lose him too."
My own heart felt as if it had become a bird and it flew in fluttering panic into my head, its feathers flapping against my ears in an attempt to escape. I felt as if in a moment it would find an escape and just fly away. In some ways, I wanted it to, but I gently placed my hands over my ears to prevent it.
The officer came closer to me. "You will need to speak to the coroner," he said, leaning over my bowed head.
I began walking to the kitchen and grabbed the phone.
"I can dial it for you," he offered.
"I can do it," I whispered and he read the numbers out to me as I pressed the buttons.
"Coroner's office," a voice said.
"I am Rona Swanson. I am calling about my daughter, Rebekah Swanson."
"Yes, Mrs. Swanson," the coroner replied, his voice softening. "I need to inform you that Rebekah was southbound on Freeway 41 at the interchange to 180. She was on the ramp to 180 when, for an unknown reason, she went over the abutment to the freeway. The accident occurred at 23:43 PM on 1-13-04. The investigating officer is J Banta and the report # is 2004-01133. You can call 268-0109 during regular business hours with any other questions."
As the coroner spoke, stating facts that my mind could not comprehend, I was scribbling the words on a piece of paper, knowing I would need every bit
of assistance I could get to remember what was expected of me in the hours to come. We finished our conversation and the officer followed me back in to the living room where Sam came and stood beside me.
"Do you need me to get a chaplain?" the officer asked.
"No," Sam said gently. "We will call Pastor Guerra in the morning."
"That's First Assembly?" the officer asked and Sam nodded.
'My daughter goes to school there, that's a good church."
"Yes," Sam said. "We will contact them in the morning."
"Are you sure you will be okay?" the officer asked.
We nodded and I asked for the officer's name.
"Officer Lopez," I said. "I want to thank you for your kindness and compassion. A bright light has gone out in the universe tonight. You were a very brave man to bring this news to us, but I thank you for your kindness."
He stood looking at me and then asked, as we moved to the front door, "You're sure you will be okay?"
We smiled as he went out of the door and we closed it behind him.
Wait For Her
wait for an angel to come to you.
You will dance together
in the dark of the night
to the music of your heart.
She will bring you
through this hell
into the brightest of light.
Teaching you how to dance
in perfect time with your heart.
Atone with Grief
Sam and I went upstairs to our room. Once there, we wrapped our arms around each other, and stood leaned together as the tears began to flow.
"Dear God," I cried. "Dear God."
We clung to each other, writhing in pain. As we both gasped for breath, Sam sat down with his hands pressed together. His eyes were squeezed shut, yet tears were streaming down his cheeks. Suddenly, as if a dam had burst, sobs began to wrack his body. As I listened to his sorrow, my mind was flying back over a million memories and visions and glimpses of our precious daughter Rebekah.
Rebekah was twenty-one years old, a senior at Fresno Pacific University beginning her final semester, and the apple of my eye. Not one day passed without a phone call or a quick e-mail between the two of us. Even when she studied abroad in England during her junior year of college, we "talked" daily as I became proficient at the art of Instant Messaging on-line.
My heart cried out, desperate to race after Rebekah, to pursue her even as my mind was awakening to the fact that she was gone, far beyond my reach. I was in a free-fall into darkness. I sat, bent over, hugging myself with my arms, praying with all that was in me, Dear God, Dear God, Dear God. Time seemed to stand still as we cried out our sorrow.
As our sobs slowed to tortured breath, I kept hearing in my head the words, only love, only love ... and prayed that God would help me, lead me, and guide me. I knew that only He would know the way out of this wasteland of loss. My eyes felt blinded by my sorrow. My heart shattered beyond repair.
"I need to call Jennifer and Jackie," I said. My credo was always that bad news can wait, but Rebekah's roommates at school would be worried if they woke up and she was not there. I called the number and Jennifer answered.
"Hello, Jen," I said. "I am sorry for waking you. I am so sorry to make this call but sweetheart, Rebekah was in an auto accident last night and she did not survive."
"No!" Jennifer cried.
"I am so sorry," I told her. "I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but I did not want you to hear it from anyone else or to wake up with Rebekah not there and be worried."
"Okay," she whispered. "I will be in touch," I said. "Okay," she said again. "Will you be okay?" I asked.
"Yes," Jennifer replied. "Jackie is here, and we will call the others." "Okay, I will talk to you later."
I stood frozen for a bit, staring at the phone, knowing the pain the phone had brought to that bright and adorable dorm room. The phone rang and I picked it up. "Hello?" "Rona, it's Jen." "Hello."
"Did you just call me?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, but I just wanted to make sure that it was you."
"I am sad to say, yes."
"Okay, I will let you go and I will talk to you later." "Bye."
Please take my broken heart
into Your loving hands.
Mend it and bind it.
Touch the deepest part of me,
where only You can reach
and let me know that all will be well
when I have Your peace.
Chilled to the Bone
I began to shake, chilled to the bone by the icy fingers of shock. All of my being wanted to argue with the harsh facts imparted to me by a coroner's office. I wanted to sleep and forget the dark news from the officer at our door. And yet I knew that I would need all of my wits about me as I prepared for a day like no other in my life because as soon as it was day, I would need to go to Rebekah's older brother and sister and tell them that their precious baby sis had passed away.
I ran a hot bath to combat the chills, and Sam and I called back to one another, random thoughts and memories and encouragement.
Then silence, each of us alone with our thoughts, and I remembered Rebekah, only a few days before. We were sitting in the living room and I watched her face dissolve into tears as she said, "Nobody loves me."
I hurried to her side, holding her close. "How can you say that?" I said. "EVERYONE loves you!"
"That's not what I mean," she explained. "I just don't have a special someone. I wonder if I will ever meet the man that I will marry."
I laughed at her then. Rebekah joked often about the fact that she planned to be the first Pentecostal Nun. She had lots of friends but no special guy friend, no one who she could see herself marrying.
As I remembered her tears and her longing, all of the conversations that we had had about her children, my grandbabies, and her wedding. "Just one little detail," she would always say, smacking her palm to her forehead, "the groom!"
"That will come, in God's time," I would reassure, confident that someone truly magnificent was out there, longing for her as well.
Now there would be no wedding, no sweet grandbabies that she and I would ooh and coo over. No more bright tomorrows with all of our shared joy bubbling over into even brighter tomorrows. All gone.
As I lay immersed in my sorrows, tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt a deep bass vibration in the depths of my soul and it was as if the Lord Himself said
to my heart-she has met THE MAN. I caught my breath as I thought of the imagery of Jesus, the Bridegroom and we, the church, as His bride. "Yes, Lord," I whispered. I realized dimly that the reach of my understanding did not extend to eternity and the mysteries beyond. Yet I was also stilled in the turbulence of my grief, comforted that Rebekah's future reality was fully and completely in the hands of God.
I stayed in the warm water, refilling it as needed until I could see through the window that daylight was making its way into the world.
To My Future Husband
I have waited for you these many years
and I am still waiting for you today.
I know that God has you out there for me,
perfectly made for me, the right fit,
but I haven't found you yet.
I pray for you everyday,
but not only you.
I pray for myself.
I pray that I will keep myself pure
and undefiled before God
I also pray that you will do the same thing.
I am savings myself for you
and not just for some guy I decide to "love" one night.
You are the only one I want to share this with.
I want you to know me like no other will.
I have been preparing myself for you.
Not worrying about when I will meet you,
but what kind of woman I will be when I meet you.
Will I be a suitable wife?
I just want you to understand
that I will love your faults
even though I am yet to know them.
I am sure of this because I know
that God made you with me in mind.
He knew both of us before we were conceived
our strengths compliment the other's weaknesses,
together we are a whole.
I just want you to know
that I will love everything about you
I may not like you at times
but I will always love you
I know that you are not perfect.
But you are perfect for me.
I keep telling God in our daily chats
that it would be nice if He introduced us,
but He keeps saying not yet.
He knows that I am impatient;
I think that is why he gives me daily lessons in patience.
I hunger to meet you, my love,
for our eyes to finally embrace,
for your voice to was over me.
Will I know you when I see you?
O God, I cannot have gone through my life in vain
only to miss my true live.
open my eyes and heart when he comes along
until then I will wait patiently.
News No One Wants to Hear
I dressed and drove to my office to begin notification of family and others. I called a dear friend, a Vietnam vet, our buddy Bill. When I told him what the police officer had told me, Bill sounded as if he had received a physical punch. His intake of breath was one of pain. "Where are you?" he asked and soon he was at my office, asking how he could help and looking so full of concern. His sweet teenaged daughter, Laura, came in, needing to get to school. Bill assured me that he would be back in touch and I began the phone calls to my family.
My sister Judie lives in Wyoming and when I talked to her she said, "Do you need me to come there?"
I was prepared to be stoic and strong. "No, we'll be alright," I said, "just keep us in your prayers."
"I love you," Judie said.
"I love you, too."
On to the next call, my oldest brother Jerry in Colorado.
I had gotten the speech down pretty well by this time, but the response was still so hard to hear as my brother moaned, "Oh sis."
There are really no words that can possibly speak to the agony of such a loss and nothing that can be said to assuage it. Yet those who love one another look for ways and my big brother wanted so badly to shelter me from such pain.
"What can we do?" he asked.
"Pray for us," I said. "I will need to leave here soon to tell Caleb and Sara. Just keep us in your prayers."
Then the call to my brother Rod, my nearest sibling-both geographically and in age. I caught him at his home in San Francisco.
"Oh, Rona," he replied, as I spoke those words of finality to a precious life.
He too wanted to know what to do. At first I suggested that he call our parents, but then I thought better of it, thinking no, they should hear it from me, and we finished our conversation with his promise to pray for us as well.
I dialed my parent's number, my heart pounding in my throat. Mom answered and I asked if Dad was there. He was not and I was relieved. I told her and she too sounded stricken. Her voice was shaky and she said, "I am so sorry to hear that."
"Me too," I replied. "Me too."
We spoke for a bit more and then I knew that I needed to be on my way for face-to-face meetings with Rebekah's brother and sister.
Sam had arrived at the office and he hugged me as I prepared to go on the darkest journey of my life, to bring news so damaging and sorrowful that I wanted to escape it myself to my two precious children.
"What's it going to be like in eternity with God?"
Frankly, the capacity of our brains cannot handle the wonder and greatness of heaven. It would be like trying to describe the internet to an ant. It's futile ... God has given us glimpses of eternity in His word. we know that right now God is preparing an eternal home for us. In heaven we will be ... reassigned to do work that we will enjoy doing ... we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God, and he will enjoy us for an unlimited, endless forever."
"Why did God really create us?"
I often ask myself this question and I've seemed to keep coming back to the same answer over and over again, God created us because He loves us and wants to have fellowship with us. God does not need us. He doesn't even need us for love or for fellowship, as there is perfect love and fellowship in the trinity. But he created us so that He can spend eternity with us. Maybe that sounds like a simple answer, maybe it is, but that is the answer that I have come to terms with.CHAPTER 5
The Longest Journey
As I drove to Caleb's apartment I was halfway listening to the Christian radio station that was on in the car. The song said "Looks like the sky above is heavy ... feels like the wind is gonna change." Truly the January sky was overcast, gloomy and appropriate. Then the chorus said "Give me the strength to cross this water, Keep my heart upon your altar, Rain Down. Give the strength to cross this water. Keep my feet, don't let me falter." Yes Lord, I thought, give me the strength because I have no idea how I can bear such tidings to Caleb whose tender love for his baby sister was clear to anyone who knew him.
When Caleb had been in the Marine Corps and brought buddies home for the holidays from Camp Pendleton, they would sometimes find out real quick that there were plenty of things that Caleb was carefree and easy going about, but his fierce love and protectiveness about Rebekah became legendary with the uninitiated being briefed on the way to our home. Often young men who came from back east would "camp out" in our living room for the holidays when leave time was not long enough for them to get home.
Excerpted from More Than Can Be Measured by Rona Swanson. Copyright © 2012 Rona Swanson. Excerpted by permission of CrossBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Call in the Night,
Atone with Grief,
Chilled to the Bone,
News No One Wants to Hear,
The Longest Journey,
News and Photo Albums,
Who's to Know?,
E-notification and Reluctant Cleansing,
Precious in the Sight of the Lord,
A Weary Stand,
From Paralytic to Carrying My Own Stretcher,
A Celebration of Life,
Descent into Darkness,
Our Reasonable Worship,
Gray and Gentle Day,
Coming to Grips,
Lost in Memories,
Try to Return,
Back to Work,
Back to School,
Election Season and See How They Run,
Where Do We Go From Here?,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A good story teller is quick to create an environment that allows the listener to slip into the characters and events and find those 'Aha!" moments for themselves ... leading the listener into the story where they sit back and say, "Oh yes, this is my story too!" and moving the reader's thoughts and emotions into, "I have been here in my own journey." Ms. Swanson is a great storyteller. I entered into her story from a chaplain's point of view and I came away knowing that there is "More than can be Measured." In the mid 80's, my ex-boss asked me to be a part time contract chaplain at the US Army Hospital. At that time he was the post chaplain, and I was a struggling student, trying to raise a family, and attempting to manage an inner-city ministry. The extra "work" was welcomed. Without a whole lot of training he set me down and gave me the two mandates of a military chaplain: to help the troops live well, and if needed, to help them die well. To say the least, I certainly felt inadequate, and Jerry's way of training was to toss you in, let you sink or swim, and be there when needed. He told me, "Dan, just go and listen. Sit and listen. Empathy and compassion is the most important part of chaplain-ing ... and as a rule, "Airborne!" And that was it - that was Jerry's way (okay, there's more to it, he had mentored me for the year we were together in the Army). Now, through the many years of "chaplaining" for the VFW, I am always on the lookout for good resource material. Something I can pass along to someone that would speak where I cannot. My life has been pretty dull and steady, and I never feel comfortable saying, "I know what you are going through" because I usually really don't. And that is why I grab onto books like Ms. Swanson's. Here is someone who has "been through it" and knows just the right words to help others identify and process into a place of healing and wholeness. With that said, I enthusiastically and unreservedly recommend this book to anyone who has personally experienced a shattering loss of their own, or knows someone who has. This book is such an engaging and vulnerable story. My bet is you'll walk away, knowing you are not alone, and feeling as if you've gained two or three new helpful friends along the way.
"More Than Can Be Measured" is a well-written, powerful memoir of Rona Swanson's experience of losing her 21-year-old daughter Rebekah in a car accident. I was friends with Rebekah at Fresno Pacific University and reading this book brought back memories, tears, and a reminder of God's grace and love. It was like I could hear Bekah's laugh and see her smile as I read her journals and poetry that Rona included throughout the book. I would definitely recommend "More Than Can Be Measured" for anyone that knew Rebekah or has lost a loved one. I will never forget my friend and I am so glad that Rona chose to write her story!