We’re talking grief this month. And I want to start right off with experiences while attending a funeral service. Always difficult for many reasons.
Too Late to Know Pearlie Mae
I sat in the unfamiliar sanctuary of an unfamiliar church attending the funeral of a woman I had never met. My newlywed pastor-husband was officiating the service. I felt ill-at-ease because I wasn’t sure what I should do. Honestly, I had attended precious few funerals in my life to this point. And now the one person I knew in this place was separated from me. I sat towards the back and wait for a cue from him on what to do next.
People began to share about Pearlie Mae. They said she had a sweet and kind spirit. As a young adult, she married a widower with several children. This perked my interest because I had just married Michael, recently widowed, and became the mother of his boys, 9 & 14. Her children stood and shared how Pearlie had stepped in and raised them as their own and how much she loved them and they loved her.
Now I wished I had known her. It was too late for that but I prayed, “Lord, help me be a mother like this mother.” Now 30 years later, I believe my boys would be willing to say that my prayers were answered. I know for me, I love them as my own.Lord, Help me be a mother like her. #funerals #inmemorium Click To Tweet
I Didn’t Meet Majel Soon Enough
Several years later, we pastored a church in Milwaukee. Right off, we met a couple that was dear to us and to everyone. They loved the Lord and served Him faithfully. But Majel was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. It wasn’t long before she was not able to know me and I was not able to get to know her well.
Everett was a picture of a loving husband. Caring for her tenderly every moment. He brought her to church as often as he could. He stayed by her side continually.
The day came when she entered Heaven and we had a funeral service for her as well. This time, I knew some about her faith but the things her children shared touch me deeply.
I was especially touched by the things her son said. He shared that when he lived at home Majel always loved others unconditionally. She would give their outgrown clothes to others who needed them. But she didn’t just stuff them in a garbage bag and carry them to the family.
Majel would wash and mend each item. Then she would tenderly wrap them in tissue and place each one in its own box as a gift. She said she didn’t want the family to feel degraded in any way. She wanted them to feel as if they were receiving a true gift and not someone’s leftovers.
Another one shared that Majel often invited people for dinner. People that weren’t Christians, or at least didn’t act like it. They would ask her why she would invite these undeserving people into their home and treat them like royalty. She would always answer, “Some people will only make it to heaven if we carry them.“
Again, my heart was struck by the love this woman had for others. And again, I prayed, “Lord help me be more like Majel.”Lord, help me be more like this women. #kindness #outreach #goodness #charity Click To Tweet
I Didn’t Take Time to Know Katrina
Unfortunately, I didn’t really learn my lesson about getting to know people better. There was an elderly woman, Katrina, in our next ministry. She was always prim and proper and kept herself looking nice. She was very personable, never acting as if she were better than others.
But I only knew her in passing. As we often do at church, we speak pleasantries as we pass them in the hall but we really don’t know too much about them outside of the church.
This was true for Katrina and me. I honestly, did not know anything about her… until her funeral. It was then I learned that her late husband was a diplomat to China. I have often thought, “Oh how I could have been visiting with her and learning so much.“
It wasn’t long after that before I was taking my children to the nursing homes and sitting to chat with the people; soaking in the knowledge and wisdom they had gained throughout their years on earth.
Then I started taking all the church children to the shut-ins and nursing homes. I would take the church van and go around town and pick them all up at their various schools. Then we would head to the nursing home or the home of a shut-in. We would sing a song or two, but then we would sit and ask questions. I have a wonderful board game that is for this very purpose called Life Stories. We took the questions cards with us and each child got to ask a question. They would answer and then the elderly person would answer.
Oh, the things we learned about each other. And what times we had!
Don’t Wait Too Late
Friend, I share these stories with you first to honor these humble women who had no idea how their life affected mine. But also to encourage you not to wait too late. Take every opportunity to get to know the people around you. Really get to know them so you won’t have to grieve their loss when you are sitting at the funeral.
The next time you go to church, sit in a different place and begin a conversation with someone you don’t know. Invite someone for Sunday dinner and spend an hour or two learning about them. You might be surprised by what you find out.
Legacy Link-up will open next Tuesday, October 15
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