I have seen you everywhere this week. In looking through my box of gifts, I found the festive muffin pan I bought for you. When the time came to exchange gifts, you were too ill to bake so I couldn’t bear to give it to you. Yet, I have not been able to give it to someone else. I’m drinking coffee out of one of the beautiful mugs you gave me. You loved coffee mugs! Even silly things like bananas whisper memories. You were always offering to share your “post weigh-in” banana with me at Weight Watchers if I hadn’t brought one for myself.
It was a year ago on Christmas Eve when your body had had enough and you slipped into eternity before I could say thank you and goodbye.
I think it hit me in the face again this December when delivering gifts to the others in our little circle. It tugged at my heart to make two gifts when it seems right to make three.
As we stood outside the church that cold December day, someone said to me that they admired how well I was taking your loss. Ah, maybe I was in pastor’s wife mode, using the gifts God gave me to comfort and encourage. It is helpful in dealing with loss to find others who need the attention and pour your heart into them.
Maybe because I had heard Marie’s tearful husband say stage IV in that hospital waiting room that first day when we learned the horrible news. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the palliative care folder in her dining room when we went for lunch that day Marie felt herself and we laughed and talked like it was all behind her. Maybe, while praying for a miracle, I understood that God’s plan isn’t always mine. Perhaps I had been grieving all along and so standing in the churchyard hugging (remember hugging?) it was easier than being alone with my thoughts.
I miss you Marie. You were among my first friends in a new city, brought together in a room where we both wanted to be healthier, but God meant that connection to be so much more. And as friendship grew, I saw your intense love for your family, your giving heart, your servant attitude and your creativity in the kitchen and the garden.
That time alone in your hospital room is one of my most precious memories. I shared my heart and talked to you about God. My words stumbled and I fear it wasn’t enough, but I thought we’d have another conversation, one more time to pray together. But we did not.
So today as I drink from a coffee mug with cardinals on it because you knew I love them, God is using your memory to remind me that one chance may be all I have with someone else; a stranger, a friend or family member, to tell them who God really is and how He longs to have relationship with them, allowing Him to do the amazing things only He can do. Even if I become separated from them, I don’t want them separated from God, so I need to speak now.
Thank you Marie. God used you in my life in many ways as He used you to be a blessing and joy in the lives of so many others. As I pray for your family and others still touched by loss and grief I will remember how you showed me that love doesn’t have to be shown in grand gestures but displayed through a simple delicious meal, a coffee mug or even half a banana after a weigh in.
The greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13b)