Roy Exum: I Remember Harriet Deison

Monday, December 31, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I had big plans for an “Auld Lang Syne” story today but, no, in a cruel twist of fate we are staggered to learn that beautiful Harriet Deison, who charmed all of our hearts when her husband Pete served as a longtime assistant pastor at First Presbyterian Church, died on Saturday in Dallas. At first the details were sketchy. Now they are not.

According to Dallas police, Harriet walked into a gun store in some strip mall of what is called “Far East Dallas” on Saturday afternoon and bought a firearm. Moments later, a single shot from the parking lot was heard by store employees. When the first police responders arrived about 2:15 p.m., the pretty 65-year-old was found dead, slumped in her automobile.

Police believe that she died of a self-inflicted wound from the gun she had just purchased. The reason I tell this story is because my extended family loved the Deison family very much. For years we worshipped with them, we dined with them, we laughed with them and, yes, we have cried with them when sometimes life seemed to go awry. What great Christians! What fabulous Children of God!

For literally decades Harriet and Pete propped us up, assuring us that by God’s grace a New Dawn was coming – as unstoppable as the New Year itself – and that if only we would place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ things would take a better turn. So help me, that promise has never failed me. (Oh, sometimes God doesn’t show up the moment you call Him but, brother, He’s always right on time!)

Further, as Pete has dedicated his entire life to the counsel and comfort of fellow strugglers, quite often he called on Harriet for her tender help, to which she always responded in such a loving and gentle way that neither anguish or incident stood a chance. Now this … oh my goodness, now this.

The police department said Harriet did not leave a note or a clue. Today there are those who wonder what might have happened if the state of Texas had a waiting period after the purchase of a firearm while others argue she just as easily could have overdosed on drugs or taken her life in many other ways. Did the weapon accidentally discharge? Could she have possibly made a simple yet fatal mistake while trying to handle a strange weapon?

In the great realm we will never know but there is one thing that is for certain – there are too many avenues available to any of us in our race to curb suicide -- if only we will reach out and seek them. As my mother sat and held the card and the note Harriet had just sent at Christmas yesterday, the overwhelming question was why Harriet’s life, after such a gratifying role of endless service to her Lord and Savior, and so many of His children, would end this way?

I am no pastor and apologize for my lack of counseling skills but I know – first hand -- there is still tenderness and caring and warmth in this seemingly cold world. Please ask for it. I’ve heard too many first-hand accounts, read too many books and heard too many wonderful sermons to not believe that help is right around the very first corner. Seek and ye shall find. Oh, it is so true.

My God doesn’t want anyone to suffer. I’ve been in far too many scrapes – remember when I “died” at Mayo Clinic? – not to realize that things will indeed change, always for the better. Mind you, this is coming from a guy who has been there when it couldn’t get worse! My God is a giving God, full of grace and wonder, who can forgive the smallest or biggest sin if only you will invite the Master to take over your life.

Aw, I don’t act like it sometimes and still say things I shouldn’t but if I could offer one last piece of advice to anyone on this last day of the year it would be this: I promise you there is a way out of any mess because God loves you so very much He sent His only begotten Son to guarantee it!

There are many religions in the world – I am fascinated by many – but Christianity is the only one that will accept you unconditionally, right where you are, no questions asked. There are no demands, no gimmicks, initiations, no nothing. All you have to do is ask Jesus into your heart and there He will be – free of charge. And, guess what? By doing so you will live forever in Eternity with every person, dog, cat and horse you ever loved.

Pete Deison taught me that. His wife Harriet, in the way she lived and exemplified her life into a role model that hundreds of women have followed, constantly reinforced God’s great Promise and we will always revere her memory … not how she died … but how she lived. I believe she could do anything from arranging flowers to running a big company in Dallas, both of which she did adroitly.

I’m a huge believer in the adage that “if God has allowed this to happen, there is a reason.” I have also found, increasingly in life, that sometimes the reasons and the answers won’t be known until we too leave this very temporary earth to walk among the angels forever and ever. Boy, I’ve got a bunch of questions but because I’ve been blessed to attend church all of my life, I realize none of it will really matter when The Great Day comes. Life on earth is just the journey.

Harriet was only several years older than me but back when I would watch her during Sunday lunch with my grandmother – who was the most Godly woman I have ever known – I kinda’ privately figured Harriet was really an angel. She and my Mammaw would talk and giggle for hours. Harriet was born into wealth in Dallas but you would have never known it because angels are that way.

Now she is dead. We are told it was self-inflicted by the very firearm she had just purchased. But as I await the year ahead, I am quite certain of three things. I am blessed that she and Pete once came my way, that I am certain God doesn’t “sponsor any junk,” and, yes, that I will see Harriet Deison again in a very lovely life.

It has been said, time and time again, that suicide is the only sin God can’t forgive, that if you are dead you can’t ask forgiveness, but now I know my Lord and Savior is bigger than that. There are so many things we will never quite understand but, in heaven, we will finally know. I know Harriet Deison will be there.

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