We had a couple of deaths in the church this week. We find out about it, usually, when Pastor Slater sends out a blanket email and in the subject line it says – death notice. Not capitilized. As though death isn’t worth big letters. As though we’re noting only the next stage of Life; because that’s what we believe.
Still, I don’t open those emails quickly. I sit and stare at the screen for a bit and wonder who it is this time. Someone who has been very sick for a while, who was maybe ready to take the angel’s hand and go home? Death doesn’t sneak up on those people. I always hope it’s that.
But I open the email. I let out a quiet, “Oh” each time. I know the families. My heart goes out to them because it was an elderly parent who died. Immediately I think of my own mother’s death out in California in 2011. I know how it is.
You hold it together and console each other with the words that have echoed through funeral halls forever – in a better place, she’s finally with Grandpa, there’s no more pain for him now. And it’s all true. And you believe it. But then you get sideswiped by some little thing.
We had decided to meet at Mom’s apartment to do the necessary sorting of her things. It was such a small place and we didn’t think it would take that long, but we were wrong. It’s amazing what one woman can stow away in cupboards, drawers and closets in a tiny apartment. There were six of us for the task and we tucked in and got to it, wiping a tear now and then; stopping to giggle over some silly old picture or piece of jewelry we just couldn’t fathom why she’d saved.
One by one the boxes were packed, items were claimed, and we hauled it all to individual vehicles. I got the angel picture. Back home in New York I hung it in the bedroom where I write and tucked Mom’s picture into one corner. Finally my sister, Shari, and I made one more pass around the almost empty apartment and walked out into the hallway to exit the complex.
Just then we were approached by a small Asian woman, an across the hall neighbor of Mom’s. She must have noticed all the hubbub, and she reached over to gently put her hand on my arm. I smiled.
“Your Mama, she die?” the woman asked, her eyes darting to the still open apartment door.
Shari and I looked each other, at her, and nodded.
The woman said, almost in a whisper, “It okay. She go . . “ and then she pointed to Heaven.
Suddenly all my holding it together was shredded into a thousand Mom shaped pieces and I couldn't say a single word.
It’s the little things that get you.
God bless you Beegee and Donna and your families in the days to come. Someone you loved has indeed gone home and we’ll all follow someday - in the Lord’s good time.