A Year Later – Jim Swaffer (dad)

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A Year Later – Jim Swaffer
One Year Later
They say the first year is the most difficult. I am not sure I agree with that although it may be true for some. It has been a little more than a year since Becky went to Heaven. I still find myself weeping several times a week as I think of all the joy she brought to my life. I still wonder “why?”, even though I know it is part of God’s plan. I wonder why it had to be her and not someone else. I know all life is precious, but to me Becky was special. I see so many who are wasting their life on drugs, immorality or the other foolish things of this world and Becky was making her life count for eternity. Whether it was her Sunday School class, the teens, singing in church, being mom to her children, a wife to Dave and of course a daughter to Peg and I, she seemed to excel. So I still ask the question, “Why Becky?”
After one year I also think much about what Becky has missed and will miss in the lives of her children. It seems that Mackenzie, Morgan and Donovan have all grown up so much in one year. Donovan has changed the most since he was the youngest. He has become the comedian of the family and I think about how much Becky would have enjoyed him now. McKenzie has become quite a young lady and Morgan is a carbon copy of Becky when she was young. Becky took much care to see that each one knew how special they were and how much they were loved. So many mothers today seem not to care at all for their children so I again ask the question “Why Becky?”
When others who were up in years passed on it did seem easier as time went by. With Becky it seems that everyday we are reminded of what she has missed with her family, what she would have sung at church had she been there, or what a help she could have been to some teenager. I know that God makes no mistakes nor does he do anything without a reason. I know what the Bible says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Most important I know that those of us who have trusted in Jesus as our Savour will see Becky again some day. In spite of all of this my human mind cannot keep from asking “Why?” So as the days, weeks and months go by I do not find it easier. I only know the time is shorter to the day when I too will join Becky in Heaven. Perhaps then I will know why- but most likely the why will not be very important when that day comes.

Jim Swaffer—Becky’s dad

Piano Playing – Matt Swaffer

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Piano Playing and Music – Matt Swaffer
Becky loved to play the piano as we were growing up. I recall so many times she would play and quite often she would play very loud. I suppose growing up with three brothers she may have felt the need to be heard in the house! There is a picture on the web site of Becky sitting at the piano. One time I remember making her mad because I told her to stop playing the piano because it was too loud and I was trying to read a book… she got up and stormed off to her room. Then of course I got the usual lecture about “being nice to my sister” which is a lecture that, as a father of three boys and one girl, I have had the privilege of delivering on more than one occassion.

Dad played the harmonica and the trumpet, so music was a big deal in our house. Of course Becky also loved to sing and she had such a sweet voice, too soft to be a “professional” singer I suppose, but even as a teenager I remember admiring her lovely solos in church. There is a picture on the web site of Dad standing by the piano and singing a duet with Becky. When Becky and I both left home there was no one to play the piano at the church and so the solution was for Becky to record many of the hymns on tape to be re-played for the services. I suppose somewhere down in Missouri there is still a box of tapes with Becky’s piano playing.

On Becky’s grave marker is the quote “No one ever cared for me like Jesus” which many of you may recognize as the famous song written by Charles Weigle, the evangelist. Becky used to sing that song as a special in church and her voice would carry not just the words but a certain depth of feeling that can only come from someone with a heart as pure as hers. Even now when I hear that song the tears well up as I remember how much Becky loved to sing that song and how important music was in her life.

Buckets-N-Bows – Valerie Gill

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Buckets-N-Bows – Valerie Gill
I went to college in 1988 at Hyles Anderson. Becky was one of the first people that I met. She was my supervisor on Buckets-N-Bows. Becky was so sweet and kind! I really enjoyed working with her! She was always lifting us up spiritually and she was also a lot of fun to be around. She made a job that could have been drudgery into something fun. (We cleaned the dining hall every night after lights out). Somewhere I have a picture of her and several others on our team, I’ll try to find it and send it to you : )

I’m very sorry for your loss and will keep you all in my prayers,


Becky as a church member – John Vaprezsan

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Becky as a church member – Dr. Vaprezsan
Becky Prater was a “Pastor’s Dream.” She was a faithful, loyal, servant–always the same. She was a well balanced Christian, secure in her walk with God and her relationship with God’s people.

Becky’s testimony was inspiring and her example motivating to all who knew her. Becky didn’t waste the time that God gave her. She was a mature Christ, knowing how to handle every challenge that came her way.

Becky’s depth of Christian character and unfaltering trust in her Heavenly Father was most evident in the final weeks of her life. Every attribute that I have mentioned about Becky did not change during those difficult days. She taught us how to live. She taught us how to die. I miss her. But thank God for His strength, comfort and glorious hope in Christ Jesus.

Becky made a difference in the lives of those that knew her. She made a great impact on her Preacher’s life.

Thoughtfulness – Jan Swaffer

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Thoughtfulness – Jan Swaffer
The thing I remember most about Becky was how thoughtful she was of others.
She would call every so often just to chat & keep up to date on our lives
because we were so far away. She didn’t mind if Matt was not home, she was
just as comfortable talking with me as with him.

When I was dating Matt & she was dating another guy, she came up with a wonderful
little game to play. We were traveling together to come to her house for a
holiday & the guys were coming later, so she made up a set of questions for
them to answer. She also made a set for her & I to answer & when we had gotten
all together one night of the vacation, we read our answers. It helped us all
get to know each other better & we had such a fun time doing it.

She also was very good at sending encouraging notes. It was always refreshing
to get one from her because, no matter how awful you felt, her note would be
uplifting and telling you how great you were or what a good thing you had done.
She always believed in Matt and I and our family and she always made sure we knew it.

Family was extra important to her even before the cancer struck. When we were still
living in Indiana she used to love to babysit for Matthew (our oldest). One time
she tried baking something for someone she was dating at the time but we were out of
eggs. She tried substituting mayonnaise instead… but it didn’t work. We
laughed so hard!

At Christmas Matt always worked for FedEx, so we couldn’t go to see our families
until summertime, but David and Becky always had Christmas presents for our kids
when we managed to get out to see them in the summer. She loved to see the
expressions on the kid’s faces when they opened their gifts.

The summer that we lived in Michigan she organized Morgan’s birthday party. She
invited couples with small children so that Matt and I could get to know some of
her church friends as well as celebrate her daughter’s special day.

Another thoughtful thing she did for me when we lived there was invite me to join
the choir. I’d thought about it, but she helped me get started by going with me
which made it easier for me to get involved.

Becky was a friend to everyone she came in contact with, but to me she was a close
“sister / friend”. Even though I miss her terribly (as do all who knew her) I’m
grateful to know that we will be together again someday!

God’s Timing – Steve Swaffer

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God’s Timing – Steve Swaffer
Our Preacher has taught us the need to “Get out of the driver’s seat” and let God drive. Many times we get in a hurry and want to see things happen, but if we are wise we will “wait on the Lord” and patiently let His timing prevail.

When Becky went off to college in search of her “Mrs.” degree, she had a few obstacles in the way. You see, when she enrolled in Hyles-Anderson College, I had already been a student there for two years before she arrived. Before I graduated, Matt had enrolled also, so Becky always had at least one brother around to run off potential suitors.

In spite of this handicap, Becky did date, and eventually had a good “prospect” or two along the way. However, each time it seemed that the Holy Spirit-sometimes through Dad-said, “No, that is not the right one.”

In time she left college without her “Mrs.” degree and returned home to get involved in the church Mom and Dad were attending. (Dad felt led to ‘retire’ from pastoring while she was at college.) When she later met Dave, began dating and then eventually married him, it was obvious to those of us who knew her that her patience had been greatly rewarded.

As she began to raise her family, Mom and Dad were proud and thankful to have such a tremendous son-in-law, and even her brothers began to accept and appreciate this intruder.

Yet the true measure of her treasure was not revealed until after the day the doctor spoke that dreaded word, cancer. As Becky began the grueling series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, it seemed that Dave had no concern for himself. His only concern was Becky-he truly loved her as his own body. Though I am sure Dave faced and fought many different emotions during that time, he never got angry with God nor did he ever seek pity for himself.

As her brother watching from 500 miles away, it was a great comfort to me to know that she had a husband who was doing everything humanly possible to care for my sister. Dad also expressed to me how much it meant for him to have a son-in-law like Dave at a time like this.

It was very easy now, to see the wisdom of waiting for God’s timing. Late in March of 2006 we got word that Becky had just weeks to live, and could slip into a coma in as little as 2 weeks. Suddenly, priorities changed and my family quickly headed to Michigan to spend some time with Becky. Matt and Paul were also able to come, and the four of us were able to spend a precious evening together reminiscing. It was at this time that the picture on the home page was taken-the first time in years (and the last until were reunite in heaven) the four of us were able to all be together.

Too soon we had to return to our jobs and other responsibilities, I left Michigan knowing I had seen my sister alive for the last time. Shortly after returning home, I began to feel that I should try to be with Mom and Dad when Becky went Home. After all, they had sacrificed and rearranged their schedule so many times for each of us kids it seemed the least I could do. But how could I know when to go? I only had so much vacation time and the only one that knows when a person will take their last breathe is our God and so I asked our Preacher (Pastor Larry Brown) to pray that God would allow me to be with Mom and Dad at that time.

Earlier that spring I had injured my ankle, and injury that seemingly would not heal. As I sought treatment I asked my doctor if getting off it for time would help and he thought it might. I was able to arrange to take a medical leave of absence starting on May 9th. I headed to Michigan that morning to spend a few days with Mom, Dad and Becky not knowing when I would return to Iowa or if Becky would still be living when I did. I knocked on my sister’s door for the last time at about 4:15 that afternoon. Mom (who had no idea I was coming) answered the door and hugged me. To my query, “How are you doing?” she answered, “Not too well, this may be her last day.” As I walked past the room where Becky lay, I saw a sight that will forever be etched in my mind. As Becky lay there taking labored breaths, Dave was by her side loving her and talking gently to her though she could not respond. Again, I was reminded of the beauty of God’s timing allowing her to meet and marry Dave.

Of course you know that around 8:00 that evening Becky went Home. At this writing, Becky has been exploring the streets of gold for less than six months. At this time the reasons for Becky’s “early” homegoing are not evident. It is far easier to see God’s timing in the relatively minor injury I faced last spring. Though at times I was frustrated at what seemed to be an unnecessary burden, it is easy now to see God’s hand. The fact that I do not understand God’s timing does not diminish the accuracy or wisdom of His timing. People often say that though we do not understand, someday we will.

During a conversation the week after Becky’s funeral, Dad said to me, “I am not sure that when we get to heaven we will even want to know, ‘Why?”. I guess it is human nature, but the older I get the more I realize Dad’s wisdom-and it seems that Dad is still learning how wise his Heavenly Father is. All of us would do well to learn from Becky’s example as she sought her “Mrs.” degree and just wait on the Lord’s perfect timing.

Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The Tractor Wreck – Jim Swaffer (dad)

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The Tractor Wreck – Jim Swaffer
While we were living in the parsonage at the church in Missouri one of the many tasks that fell to us was mowing the lawn. This was not a normal patch of grass around the house but about seven acres of lawn including a ball field. In order to simplify this job the church purchased a Ford 4000 tractor with a six foot finish mower mounted on the back. For those of you unfamiliar with tractors, this was similar to what you might see mowing the median on the highway.

As our children reached the age of responsibility (so we thought) they would take on the job of mowing to earn a little spending money. Although this was primarily a job for the boys, Becky was not to be denied the opportunity to earn some money. I taught her how to operate the tractor and she would occasionally mow the grass.

One evening, as I was relaxing after a hard day, she came in after mowing and wanted me to put the tractor in the garage. I was very tired so I told her that I was sure she could put the tractor in the garage. She protested a little but then left to finish the job. Soon she came back in half crying but mostly mad. “I told you I couldn’t put the tractor away” she said. It seems I had taught her how to use the clutch but not the brake. On the soft grass just pushing in the clutch brought the tractor to a stop but on the concrete garage floor it continued to roll. To add to the problem there was a slight rise in the garage approach so in order to get up the hill she had to give the tractor some gas. Pushing the clutch in did not stop the tractor until it had destroyed several items stored in the garage and put a bulge in the back wall of the garage. Fortunately no one was hurt and as we look back it has become one of those things we laugh about. It is also fortunate that the boys had some incidents with the tractor themselves so whenever they began to tease about women drivers she could counter with her own account of their “wrecks”.

The Snakes – Matt Swaffer

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The Snakes – Matt Swaffer
Living in Missouri we all got used to some of the “mid-western” wildlife. There were the very large (and ugly) banana spiders, the nightly howling of the coyotes, and of course… snakes. There were the occasional water moccasins in the creeks and from time to time Paul would kill a copper head. For the most part though, it was just plain old garter snakes. Now I have always been slightly
annoyed with any kind of snake… well OK I am pretty much afraid of snakes… but Becky was absolutely terrified of snakes. It didn’t matter if the snake was a harmless garter snake, she believed that they were the worst living creature possible (well… unless maybe it was the shrew… but that’s another story.)

One day we were out playing a game, I believe it was volleyball. We sometimes set up the net near the side lawn area of the church because it was more convenient.During the course of the game Becky happened to look down and saw that she was
nearly standing on a garter snake. She screamed and jumped… it seemed like 3 feet…and when she landed unbelievably she landed right on another garter snake.

I suppose that her classmates and I should have been more sympathetic to her fears, or perhaps we should have been more “manly” and intervened with the snake… but of course none of that occurred to us at the time. All I remember is Becky lliterally running, jumping and screaming all the way back to the church building looking down at every place her feet touched just KNOWING that there were more snakes coming after her. And all the while the rest of us were laughing at our unbelievably good fortune at seeing her step on not one… but two snakes at nearly the same time.

Becky of course was always a pretty courageous young lady but that day the snakes definitely got the best of her!

Becky’s New Job – Matt Swaffer

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Becky’s New Job – Matt Swaffer
The New Job

It was a glorious, beautiful day for a walk down the golden avenue, but then every day is beautiful in this wonderful place. The Lord looked around and felt that… well something was missing. That seemed odd because Heaven had everything beautiful that you could imagine. The Eternal Sun shone with a glow that flowed down sparkling avenues of the purest gold. At the ends of these streets the rays twinkled across the bejeweled walls of the city creating a shimmering, playful light in which to enjoy the beauty of the place. Where there were trees they shone with the deepest emerald hues imaginable and where there was grass it appeared as an unblemished carpet of lush green with no sprouting weeds or barren patches to mar the inviting surface.
Across the crystalline river, row after row of gorgeous mansions loomed, each personalized for its inhabitant. The residents of these mansions were the recipients of all of this beauty. Destined to live forever in beauty, the residents spilled out of their mansions and into the streets. Joyous faces of children mingled with the wise and yet un-wizened faces of those who must have been adults… yet curiously, on close inspection you couldn’t tell who was the youth and who was the aged among them. Were you and I there, we doubtless would recognize some of these faces as loved ones who await our own arrival.
Midst all this beauty, joy and revelry, there was something amiss. God is not often imagined as the “picky” one and yet as the consummate perfectionist His fastidious attention to detail would put even the pickiest among us to shame. As His gaze took in the timeless scene before Him, He sensed rather than saw the absent element.

Heaven needed a hostess!
For eons, ever since Jesus gave Peter the proverbial “keys to the Kingdom” folks on earth had imagined a grizzly fisherman in an oily fisher cloak asking them to “sign in” before they passed through the Pearly Gates. Of course Peter didn’t stand at the gates, and in fact due to a bit of omnipotent trickery, it was not strictly necessary for one to physically walk through the gates to gain access to this marvelous Home of the Saints. Unfortunately many of the new entrants to Heaven seemed a bit perplexed on entering to not be greeted by the venerable “Saint Peter”.
Truthfully, Peter wasn’t really cut out for that sort of thing. Sure, Heaven had tamed him considerably since his escapades on Earth and he had long since stopped rushing headlong into the River every time his Savior passed by on the other side. Even so, Peter wasn’t really the sort of greeter that most people were hoping for when they got to Heaven.
After looking around and consulting with Himself, God made a decision. He decided to design the perfect Heavenly Hostess. She (for it must be a “she” right?!) must have the Grace of the Ages combined with a Heavenly Sweet Spirit. Her smile must be as Genuine and Real as the City she represented. She must have a voice that could blend with the great choirs as they lifted up the anthem of the Saints and yet must be gentle enough to welcome even the most humble and precious child who might be joining the ranks of the Redeemed. Her smile must be radiant… but not in a flashy sort of a way… more in a humble sort of “Welcome to your new home” kind of way.
With these qualities in mind, God just needed a good training program for the new hostess. He started by choosing a father who would love his little girl in such a way that when she got to Heaven, she would recognize that same kind of love from her Heavenly Father. That was a tall order because a man has to have a big heart for that kind of love. Next he needed a mother that would train her little girl to be sweet and kind while being strong and graceful. This mother would need a great sense of humor, for children learn to smile when they are young. Along with all of this, integrity and faith were required to build the proper character for Heaven’s Hostess.
So late one September evening a little baby girl was born to her loving parents. They were excited to have a little girl in the family and Dad couldn’t have been more proud of his little angel. Mom was thrilled at the prospect of having a little girl in the house and made preparations early to train her in all the skills of motherhood that she would someday need. The little girl grew and her spirit grew along with her. By the time she reached young adulthood people knew she was something special. She sang with such a sweet voice, loved her husband and children with such a strong love and had incredible faith and strength of character. Those who knew her loved her and she loved back with an unconditional love and compassion that made her even more beloved by those whose lives she touched.
Becky had many jobs while here on earth. She cared for children as a baby sitter in church families’ homes and she cared for the elderly as a worker in the nursing home. She helped clean the kitchen at home as a faithful daughter and helped clean the dining hall at college as a dutiful Bucket’s and Bows worker. She loved the teenagers of Metro as though they were her own and when her own came along she loved her own even more. As a wife she excelled in her devotion to David and as a friend she perfected her loyalty to her friends. Whatever job she pursued, she pursued it with all the strength and diligence she could muster.
Then she got a new job on earth. She was tasked with the responsibility of gracefully accepting God’s Will even though it meant physical pain, emotional heartache and a great deal of disappointment. Here was a task more back-breaking than caring for children or the elderly, more humbling than cleaning up after others, more taxing than loving those around her and tougher than any job she had held up until then. This job was the ultimate test of her life, it was to fight cancer.
Cancer is scary and yet when asked, she said she wasn’t afraid. When her hair fell out, she took on wigs and hats and still looked beautiful. Until the very end she still lovingly cared for her children by fussing with their hair until it was just right. Many who came to help encourage and strengthen her came away feeling encouraged and strengthened by her. Courage, Grace, Strength and Beauty were all the attributes that Becky displayed as she took on this new job of fighting cancer. In essence that’s what this new job was about because God didn’t expect her to beat cancer, He just asked her to fight it. Becky never knew whether she would win the battle or lose it, or even if she would know the answer until the moment she died, she just knew that in the face of the fight, she would exhibit the character traits that her mother and father had instilled so many years before. As with every other job in her life, Becky handled this one better than most.
On May 9th, of 2006 Becky got a new job. God asked her to come to Heaven and take on the job he had waiting for her in that beautiful place he had prepared for her. She had a child already there to care for and I am sure she didn’t miss a beat. She had a grandfather and grandmother already there too, and while they didn’t need nursing care, I am sure the care of a loving grand daughter was much appreciated. God had prepared these things so she wouldn’t be completely out of water when she got to heaven but of course the most important job for her was as Heaven’s Hostess!
During the memorial service for Becky, David Lutz mentioned how he would always think of her as standing at Heaven’s gate, acting as Heaven’s Hostess with her gracious smile and kind words of welcome. David was one of the teenagers that Becky and her husband influenced during their time together at Metro. That is how I think of Becky today and someday I can’t wait until I walk through those gates and see… not St. Peter… but “Ms. Becky” waiting to greet me and welcome me home. And someday when my mom and dad and David and the kids get to Heaven I think God is going to have a special thanks for them for giving Heaven such a wonderful gift.
This past week Becky marked her one year anniversary at her new job. No doubt she got a good review as I am sure she is doing a wonderful job up there in heaven. Down here on earth it’s been a rough year learning to get by without her but it’s comforting to know that someday in the not too distant future we will all be together again walking down the streets of gold taking in the beautiful sights and perhaps Becky can introduce us to some people who have gone on. Dr. Viola Walden and Dr. Lee Roberson were both greeted by Becky and maybe by then Becky will have enough seniority to be the one who introduces us to St. Peter himself!

Cooking – Steve Swaffer

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Cooking-Steve Swaffer
Becky always seemed to have a love/hate relationship with food. Though she
eventually developed into an excellent cook, some of her early ‘experiments’
where quite interesting. Before she joined me at college, she was thoughtful
enough to send me some brownies. Since it was the thought that counts, I
tried to ignore the egg shells that came with them! The brownies were easier
to eat than the cake that she baked when she tried substituting salt for sugar.

When someone else was doing the cooking things were quite different. On
one occasion in college, I invited her to join Robyn and I on a date,
since at that time her social life was a little slow. I ordered two
pizza’s ( I think Little Caesar’s Pizza Pizza deal), hoping to have some
leftovers for breakfast. Robyn and I enjoyed one of them, while Becky
finished of the other one all by herself. I guess it was a good thing
she didn’t have to share with a date!