I sat cross legged on the floor facing my friend Mary, who sat on the couch across from me. We were planning her funeral. Dressed in a cream colored sweater and a beige skirt, her gray hear framed her round, bright face. Both hands -- the hands of an artist -- with fingers fine and graceful, rested in her lap, occasionally lifted to add personality and detail to the stories that she shared. Antique furniture, framed photos and paintings she painted over the years surrounded us. Her worn bible rested next to her.
A brown cardboard box filled with memories – old photographs, baby books, newspaper articles -- sat next to me on the floor. Over the next two hours, we wandered down memory lane. I pulled out pictures along the way, and Mary remembered and shared the stories.
There were stories of when she was a baby snuggling next to her mother, kissing her father goodbye on his way to work, and playing with a friend. Stories of when she was a young woman, with dances and dreams and going to college. Stories of her husband, when they met, their wedding day and memories of their 50 years together before he went home to be with the Lord two years ago. She relived memories of Christmas dolls, times at the University of Iowa, a trip to Scotland as part of the Scottish Highlanders, the birth of her children and the tragic death of both of them – her son in an auto accident at the age of four months when she was also seriously injured, and the death of her daughter near the age of 30 from cancer.
She shared memories of the life the Lord gave her full of love, hopes, joys and tragedies. And despite the great amount of pain that she has endured, she continues to point to the One whose grace has sustained her and whose love has changed her.
Widowed and without any living children, Mary’s desired is to have things organized and ready for the day when the Lord calls her home. I collected the photos and the descriptions to put on a CD, we looked at her handwritten obituary for me to type, we talked about the songs that she wanted sung and the scripture verses she loved and we laughed and cried.
When we set out to sort through the box our goal was to plan her funeral, but it was so much more than that, and we soon realized that we were planning a celebration.
A life well lived and one she is still living. It was sweet to share in her life today. I left thinking about life and love and the Lord – it’s late at night now, and I still am. I was blessed today, celebrating Mary and celebrating the Lord.
Thank you, Mary. Your legacy of love and faith in the Lord Jesus lives on in the people’s lives you touch. It is a lovely legacy. I love you, and because of you, I love the Lord more, too.