Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wrong Funeral



Consumed by my  loss, I didn't notice the hardness of the pew where I sat.  I was at the funeral of my dearest friend - my  mother. She finally had lost her long battle with cancer.  The hurt was so intense; I found it hard to  breathe at times.
Always supportive, Mother clapped loudest at my school plays, held a box of tissues while listening to my first heartbreak, comforted me at my father's death, encouraged  me in college, and prayed for me my entire life.  When  mother's illness was diagnosed, my sister had a new baby  and my brother had recently married his childhood  sweetheart, so it fell on me, the 27-year-old middle  female child without entanglements, to take care of  her.  I counted it  an honor.
'What  now, Lord?' I asked sitting in church.  My life stretched out before me as an empty abyss.  My brother sat stoically with his face toward the cross while  clutching his wife's hand.  My sister sat slumped  against her husband's shoulder, his arms around her as she  cradled their child.  All so deeply grieving, no one  noticed I sat alone.  My place had been with our mother, preparing her meals, helping her walk, taking her to the doctor, seeing to her medication, reading the Bible  together.  Now she was with the Lord. My work was finished, and I was alone.  I heard a door open and slam shut at the back of the church  Quick  footsteps hurried along the carpeted  floor.
An  exasperated young man looked around briefly and then sat next to me. He folded his hands and placed them on his lap.  His eyes were brimming with tears.  He began to sniffle. 'I'm late,' he explained, though no explanation was  necessary. After several eulogies, he leaned over and commented, 'Why do they keep calling Mary by the name of Margaret?'' 'Because, that was her name, Margaret.  Never Mary, no one called her 'Mary,'' I whispered.
I wondered why this person couldn't have sat on the other side of the church.  He interrupted my grieving with his tears and fidgeting. Who was this stranger anyway?  'No, that  isn't correct,' he insisted, as several people glanced over  at us whispering, "her name is Mary, Mary  Peters.'
'That  isn't who this  is.'
'Isn't this  the Lutheran  church?'
'No, the  Lutheran church is across the  street..'
'Oh.'
'I believe  you're at the wrong funeral,  Sir.'
The  solemnest of the occasion mixed with the realization of the man's mistake bubbled up inside me and came out as  laughter.. I cupped my hands over my face, hoping it would  be interpreted as sobs. The creaking pew gave me away. Sharp  looks from other mourners only made the situation seem more hilarious. I peeked at the bewildered, misguided man  seated beside me.  He was laughing too, as he glanced  around, deciding it was too late for an uneventful  exit.  I imagined Mother laughing.  At the  final 'Amen,' we darted out a door and into the parking  lot. 'I do believe  we'll be the talk of the town,' he  smiled.
He said  his name was Rick and since he had missed his aunt's funeral, asked me out for a cup of  coffee. That  afternoon began a lifelong journey for me with this man who  attended the wrong funeral, but was in the right place. A year after our meeting, we were married at a country church where he was the assistant pastor. This time we both  arrived at the same church, right on  time.
In my time  of sorrow, God gave me laughter.  In place of loneliness, God gave me love. This past June, we celebrated our twenty-second wedding  anniversary. Whenever anyone asks us how we met, Rick tells them, 'Her mother and my Aunt Mary introduced us, and it's truly a match made in heaven.'

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