At first, they looked like just another couple, sitting together at the table, side-by-side, him reading a book, her resting her eyes. But as time went on, I saw that, yes, he was reading, but more than that, he was keeping her company, or even keeping watch over her.
While she held a stack of greeting cards that perhaps wished her well or comfort or a speedy recovery, perhaps read to her while she mumbled stories or smiled about long forgotten family pranks, he kept her close to him and the life they enjoyed together, both past and present. A picture of pure love.
And then, this morning, I saw her picture in a small silver frame, over the words
In Loving Memory of
August 4, 1931 – January 10, 2020.
It brought unexpected tears and emotions that don’t belong in the same sentence or moment. Three separate feelings so clear and strong I was knocked sideways.
I feel such heartbreak for John, a godly man always and ever devoted to her. My mom and I usually met them in the same place in the retirement village where he’d both worked and now lived. They would be sitting at a table with a half-finished jigsaw puzzle, a collection of crosswords, or a book. But he only and always worked with just one hand – the one farthest from Maydelle. The other hand at the ready to hold hers, whether in love or concern – or most likely both. I am heartbroken for John.
I feel such joy for Maydelle. I have no idea how long she was immobile or unable to care for herself or John. The last time I saw her, she was asleep in a wheelchair designed to keep her safe from falling out, covered with beloved blankets, close as always to John. I have no doubt, though, that in her younger years, she was playful and active, full of life and hope for the future.
And, although the future is not what they had planned, her future now really is full of life and hope – in Heaven, sitting with Jesus, just waiting for her beloved. I am so joyful for Maydelle, free and whole, healed and complete.
At the very same time, despite my heartbreak for John and joy for Maydelle, I cannot shake or suppress the emotion I least expected … envy.
Envy not so much for me, although I am always reminded that, as people die, they get to see Bill.
But envy for my mom. Rather on her behalf. Because for more years than you might imagine, my mom has prayed for Home.
Yes, for 19 years, she’s had a good life at Fairhaven, a lovely place to settle and rest. Until lately, she’s been involved in her local church, helping others get to and from doctor’s appointments and the dining hall, sending cards of encouragement to those in pain or in need, keeping her extensive reading list up-to-date, staying connected with friends and family online and in person, and generally engaged with the world.
But now she remembers little of what happened three minutes ago, is confused by even the smallest of daily events, and feels lost in a painful and blurry world. What she really wants – what she only wants – is to see my dad and Jesus. She wants to be free and whole, healed and complete.
My mom doesn’t know about Maydelle – she wouldn’t remember even if I told her. But I feel the envy she would feel, awaiting the invitation she longs for.
When I hit the road this morning, my car on auto-pilot for an almost weekly visit, I had no idea I would return home with such a profoundly deep sense of loss for a woman I barely knew, never anticipating the emotions I would experience because of a picture in a small silver frame.
But if asked at this moment what’s going on with you right now? I would not be able to describe anything else. In fact, I think it may take more than a minute or two to find my balance again.
Who would have thought this cocktail of heartbreak, joy, and envy would have such an effect? Why has my soul been shaken by the not-wholly unexpected news of Maydelle’s passing? What is it about death that makes the whole world stop – if only but for a second?
Yet why am I so surprised? Do the visions in our crystal balls ever happen in the living technicolor, or time, or place we imagine? When planning our perfect future, don’t we hide a scrap of reality in our breast pocket just in case?
Why after all these years and attempts to choreograph my life am I caught off guard by the expected unexpected?
After all, aren’t each and every one of us a mere step or two away from a small silver picture frame?
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, prompted by “Currently…” (reading, planning, stressing, wearing, watching, listening, eating, loving, feeling, hoping). If you’d like to hop along, please join us at Kristi Rieger Campbell’s Finding Ninee or Tamara Klein Bowman’s Tamera (like) Camera.