The Simple Faith of a Beloved Wife and Mother
Just a few months after Jane and I met while I was in the Navy at Glenview, Illinois, a Naval Air Station north of Chicago, some three hundred miles from my hometown of Newark, Ohio, I learned that my brother, Bill had met and was dating the girl who would, before long, become his wife. I never knew how Bill and Marlene met and I knew only that she had come from the Winegardener family, nice people who had raised mostly boys, five of them, and made their homes in and around the Newark area.
The Lord gave Bill and Marlene three precious bundles of joy, Diana, Beth Ann, and Lisa. Over the years they and our children, mingled with their cousins when we visited them in Ohio and they all enjoyed young fun different times we were together.
One deep concern, though, was always with us those years and that was my brother’s aversion to the gospel of Christ. This led Jane and me to attempts to witness to both Bill and Marlene, sometimes, with zeal but short of wisdom.
On one occasion, while on one of our visits, a Sunday afternoon, as I recall, we took the two of them on a brief country drive. While we were out together, I pulled our car to the side of the road, parked, and began presenting the gospel to them. Not surprisingly, of course, though they were softly polite, neither of them wanted to receive Christ as their Saviour.
At other times, I witnessed to Bill about Christ but he was not about to make any move to faith in Christ and clearly told me so. This fact was before our family nightly for many years as we prayed for Uncle Bill to be saved. We prayed for him and Marlene and the girls and felt in our hearts he was the key to the whole family.
I knew that Bill and Marlene, living in a mobile home on the farm with Mother and Dad, did many things to help our folks. Bill’s job was evenings and taxing, so I knew I needed to do some things to help Mom and Dad too. Living away in our ministries, knowing I did little for our folks, bothered me. One particular year as a pastor and school teacher, in summer, I arranged to be there for a week and to roof their farmhouse. I had no accomplished skill but could do some roofing so that week, while Bill worked to take care of his family, I devoted my time to the roof project. Jane and the children were home at our ministry site in western Ohio, and I missed them but was happy to spend time with Mother and Dad, and somehow I got done on schedule and got back home.
One evening, during my roofing week, Marlene stopped to visit with the folks and me, just across the yard, as we shared fellowship together. During our family conversation, the four of us, it occurred to me, the Lord had given us a few minutes to reach out to Marlene. I looked across the room to Marlene at a moment no one was talking, looked up and simply said to her, “Marlene, don’t you think it’s about time you should give your heart to the Lord?” I’m sure Mother and Dad were praying at that moment, as they looked on in silence.
I was amazed and thankful to the Lord, that moment because Marlene quickly looked up and replied to me, “Yes, Ken, I do.”
There that summer evening, I took my New Testament, and, looking across the room to my sister-in-law, I read the claims of Christ upon her life. In a few precious moments, she bowed her head and asked Christ to come into her life. We all rejoiced together. Make no mistake about it, her faith was real as she grew in the Lord. None of us knew in those early days of her Christian life, but that faith was to be tested in a way that breaks my heart to speak of.
I believe it was the following summer that our families were together and we had a day on the farm when Bill was home and he and I were in Mom and
Dad’s garage, working at something I can’t recall. I may have been watching Bill work on something.
Some days before, my doctor had looked at a leg problem I had that had been with me for some time. He insisted on checking it out. He said this, “That may be cancer. I’m going to check it out and I’ll get back with you when I know something more. That gave me pause to think about my own faith.
It was in that context, that Bill and I were in the garage that morning, just a few days later, and knowing the uncertainty of what the doctor had told me, as Bill and I talked, I shared these remarks with him.
“Bill, I thought you might want to know something I said to the Lord a few days ago. It was about you.”
“What’s that?” he said, with a look of disgust on his face.
“I told the Lord this week that if my death would bring you to faith in Him, that I was ready to go.”
Instantly, he stepped back and looked up in dismay and in a loud voice shouted, “My God, man, forget me!”
I looked back at him, and tapped my heart, and said this to him, “As long as it’s still tickin’ I’ll never forget you!” I turned away and left the garage and my angry brother.
The following week, I was away as a camp counselor for some junior high boys. The doctor’s report was due and Jane told me she would call the camp and tell me what he said, when he called.
About noon, part way through the camping week, I got a call from the camp kitchen, that my wife was on the phone. The first thing Jane said was this: “The doctor said your deep leg problem was just a nasty bruise. You’ll be fine.”
I said, “Thank you, Honey, that makes me feel better.”
Just then Jane said, after a pause in her voice, “Well, yes, but I have some other news. Your folks called and they just discovered Marlene has cancer, and it’s very serious cancer! They’re going to do surgery to see how bad it is!”
I stumbled away from the phone, my heartbreaking. As I sit at my computer, writing this story of so many years ago, I confess, my heart still aches.
We hurried around after I got home from camp and got ourselves back to Newark to be with the family for Marlene’s surgery. I was with everyone in the waiting room, a number of us there, just before she went into surgery when someone told me Marlene wanted to see me.
When I got to her room, I remember it was very quiet as I entered the room and Marlene began to speak to me in a soft voice. I bent down to hear her and these are her exact words I will never forget. She turned her face up and said simply, “While I’m in surgery, I want you to tell my brothers what I believe.”
I quickly assured her I would and prayed with her quietly and left the room. And I did tell her brothers, the two or three, who could be there as I remember. My mind fails me but I think it was Owen and Maynard and Donovan, all nice guys I knew a little. I simply shared Christ with them as she had asked.I told them very simply, knowing that she wanted them to be saved as well.
The news we got, after her surgery, was not good, to be sure. And precious Marlene and Bill and my three dear nieces entered into a a caldron of difficulty and heartbreak for weeks and months until that day God took wife and mother home, May 11, 1979. Our hearts ached for Diana, Beth and Lisa- their dear mother gone at Mother’s Day time!
I can’t recall what part I had in Marlene’s funeral. It hardly matters. What matters is this. As Jane and I reflect upon it now, she believes Bill brought the message to us that Marlene wanted her to sing Marlene’s favorite song at her service. When we learned what it was, it turned out to be not a hymn or gospel song at all. But, it was still Marlene’s favorite. To her I am sure, it meant a great deal. Her childlike faith was a thing of beauty and to her it was a hymn.
Here it is: ”
You’ll Never Walk Alone
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope (Christ) in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope (Christ) in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Writer/s: Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers
Publisher: CONCORD MUSIC PUBLISHING LLC
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Jane sang this for Caren Marlene Pierpont’s funeral. And she edited the last chorus,
“WALK ON WALK ON WITH CHRIST IN YOUR HEART.”
If ever there was a gallant lady who endured the storms of life, it certainly was Marlene Winegardener Pierpont. The next time you begin to think that your dreams have been “tossed and blown,” please remember the legacy Marlene left to anyone who knew her story.
To be sure, Marlene was a flawed human being, just as are all of us. The dear Lord Jesus is the only person who ever walked this globe to perfection. Nevertheless, Christians have a life-message with which to bless others for whom Christ died. To realize that my dear sister-in-law took the full brunt of a terrible disease, to live a scant half-life, leaving the dearest ones she knew behind so painfully soon, seems a tragedy. But wait! God loved Marlene. He still does. Today she rejoices in His presence.
Many godly believers have suffered in this world and God has used their sacrifice to reach the hearts of others in order to bring them to faith. It is only in God’s perfect Heaven, in the presence of the One who suffered and died for us, that we will fully know what He has reserved for those who have stood for Him despite tragedy and loss. Trust the Lord Jesus, my dear reader friend. One day you will see the face of Him who suffered and died for you.
Gallant lady, we honor you for turning to Christ. We honor you for remembering the ones you loved even in your hour of suffering. May your simple example of faith and trust turn our hearts and lives to the Lord as well. I thank God for knowing and experiencing your story.
As many now know, my brother Bill did come to Christ and insisted the saving message of the Lord Jesus be preached at his funeral. Pastor Bob Simpson, a friend of us all, graciously and faithfully presented Christ in our midst at Bill’s service on February 27, 2020.
Let me close with that time-honored benediction Job gave in the face of his loss of every earthly person and thing God allowed to be taken from him: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Pastor Ken Pierpont (Ret.)