By Jennifer Mobbs
As the funeral director slowly closed the lid of the casket, I stood quietly trying to hold back my tears. I am not a crier, not at funerals, weddings, or even births. But I found myself welling up inside, tipping my head back so the unfamiliar tears would not roll down my face. I turned and sat down in those odd plastic chairs the funeral home puts out under the tent. No one else was sitting down; of the few people that had attended the graveside service most had already left, gone back to their busy lives. I noticed how small the crowd was, it made me a bit sad, so few people coming to pay their respects. I just sat there staring at the casket, that’s when I realized that was Me.
The 87 year old woman that died of a stroke, about to be placed in the ground was once my age and for the first time I truly understood her. I knew now why she was cranky, mean and never saw the good side of anything. The funeral director began to pace a bit, but I wasn’t ready to leave, not yet not until it all soaked deeply into my heart. All of a sudden I so desperately wanted to talk to her one last time, to tell her she didn’t have to hurt anymore, I had the answer. But even if she were still alive she wouldn’t have understood anything I told her because her mind had flown away long before her body did. I wanted to tell her that it didn’t matter to me how she acted I still loved her, but its too late for that now.
Is it too late for me, will I listen? Will I take this chance to see my life as it really is and will I make a choice that will be about joy instead of sadness? I have been holding on to my past hurts for so long; with each disappointment I built these walls one brick upon another. Each painful event, I closely held in a secret place, taking them out with only the smallest of reminders, leaving my old wounds unable to heal. I have held up discouragement as my banner, my way of getting through each day and what I expected I unfortunately kept receiving. But that just made my case stronger for my broken heart, my lost dreams. With such despair I couldn’t even see the light or as I have heard it said, “I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”
You can learn a lot about someone when you pack up their life after they are gone. You walk into an old house, filled with memories that are much older than you are. As you talk to family members you hear stories that you never heard before. It’s amazing that the person you thought you knew everything about, is not the same person other people saw. But don’t we all do that? We show people what we want them to see. Those not so pretty things we hide. We know what people want and that’s what we give them.
This lady lived a long life and many would say she was lucky to have had so many years on this earth. But I knew that she was tired and lonely. She had shut most everyone out and become very reclusive. Yes, she was mean and she did some awful things; she didn’t seem to have compassion for others. She complained about everything and everyone. No matter what I did, even if it was exactly to the letter of her request it wasn’t right, somehow she would find something to be upset about. I knew she was trying to run me off. I just wasn’t willing to go. Something inside me told me to keep trying and to dismiss her harsh words; even I didn’t understand it myself. There were times I turned my car around and went back home when I wasn’t feeling up to dealing with her. If only I really understood what she has been through, if I had just sought out God’s direction for her, maybe I could have done something before her last days. Sitting there at her funeral I saw it, I listened and I knew. She and I were so similar; our lives were like mirrors in some very important ways. Our quest in life was for love and acceptance. Not from famous people, not from strangers who didn’t know us, but from our families and our closest friends. It’s such a simple request, but it went without answer.
She and her husband had no children, so her nieces and nephews became her world. She sewed clothes and made toys for them. She loved to bake cakes and pies and bring them over to the kids. She showered her family with all the love she had. But once her nieces and nephews grew up, they forgot her. They didn’t visit; they didn’t call, only to borrow money. As the years went by she began to resent her family. When I came into her life she didn’t care much for anyone. Her husband has recently died and now it was just Her. She felt so alone, but I didn’t see it because I was out going to all the birthday parties, recitals, football games and gymnastics classes of my nieces and nephews. My husband and I have no children, so I centered my life on my brother’s children. Then they also grew up and went off to college and married and now they no longer need me. They do not call me, they do not write to me, so now I am lonely and a bit resentful that they seem to have forgotten me.
It’s easy to wall your world off in the name of self-preservation; it was her only way to stop the pain and the rejection she felt. Both she and I had poured our lives into our families, and now they didn’t care. So we felt like what we did was worthless and that made us feel worthless. I think she tried to warn me, she used to tell me not to spend all my money and time on my brother’s children, they wouldn’t appreciate it and honestly she was right. She knew because she had already lived it out. At some point her heart broken by the rejection she felt lead her to chose the path of resentment.
Sitting there I saw these similarities of our lives; but I also saw the answer. I wanted to shout it out; it was so simple and yet amazing. God showed me how we poured ourselves into others that took and didn’t give but God poured His Self and His only Son into us. He didn’t have to leave Heaven, but He did and suffered the rejection of His own people and the betrayal of one of His own disciples. What could be worse? He accepted the cross, which He hung on giving His life for me, and for her. God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice could never be compared with any pain or rejection we felt here. And still He is here now ready to fill in those wounded open places in my heart and in my life. It’s OK if I don’t have children, it’s OK if my family doesn’t need me anymore, because Jesus not only has a plan for me He wants me, He treasures me. There isn’t a single moment that He has not seen; there isn’t a single hurt He isn’t aware of.
When I die, if I am to live to be 87 years old, it won’t matter who is there to watch them put me in the ground because I will have been long gone to the place I have always belonged, to the family I have always had in Christ. This life is temporary, filled with ups and downs, pain and sorrow and sometimes great joy and happiness. It’s a roller coaster ride at best. So now while I still have time, I can tear down the walls, I can move past the pain and rejection and look ahead, making God my center, pouring myself into His work and Word. I can make the choice not to resent those who reject or ignore me; I can seek Joy and have it. If only I could have given one 87 year old lady a gift, it would be the joy of doing God’s work. Telling her that it was time to let go of those who didn’t care about her, who didn’t have time for her and that she wasn’t alone, God was right there waiting for her to take His Hand and heal her heart.
I don’t expect to always be able to step over the pain, but now I see that if I reach out and look up God is holding His Hand out to me and all I have to do is take it and He will lead me to the path of Joy.
I have been writing all my life, I just didn’t realize it until I was my late 40’s. I hope my experiences can help other who have gone through similar trials. This story is a bit different for me, however I feel compelled to write what I see, even if it isn’t always happy.