Some of the most beautiful letters are those He writes through a child’s heart…
Someone had thrown the chapel doors wide, and a clean, fresh breeze was wafting through… along with a near-peace I hadn’t felt these last hurried days. God’s presence, as strong and beautiful as the vibrantly-pink roses up front. I was standing to the side of the altar with my sister, helping set up some music for mom’s funeral, when I sensed someone in front of me. Looked up… into a face from my childhood.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked, the genuine warmth in his expression bringing me quickly back to the boy he once was, despite his now over six-foot frame and deepened voice.
“Of course I do!” I smiled back, reaching for his hand. It’d been over 25 years since we’d seen each other, but there was no mistaking that trademark sparkle in his eyes and smile. The same light I knew so well in his mom and sisters, too… so uniquely a part of the faces in their family. We’d spoken briefly on the phone two nights ago, when he’d agreed to be a pall bearer. “Thank you so much for coming…I know it would mean a lot to her…”
Glancing down, I noticed the remembrance pamphlet in his hand. Quickly drafting it the day before, I’d purposed to include memories that would draw her friends back into their own fun or special times with her… especially in the words to be read during the service.
“There’s something in there about you, you know…,” I said, nodding to the paper. His eyes held question and I smiled. “Oh, I didn’t mention you by name – just about how much she loved those annual calls from a certain little boy…”
As I watched him remembering, I could see her face once again…young and joyful, as it was in those years…hear her laughing…see the dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. And the boy who’d delighted in finding they shared the same birthday – like a kid detective so proud of uncovering the clues. He’d made up his mind to “surprise” her by calling each year to celebrate their day together. No matter, he only lived a few miles away…
“Oh, I bet that’s him!” she’d exclaim, reaching to grab the ringing phone first thing on those mornings.
I’d always been a little in awe…wondering what a little boy, only a year older than I, could possibly think of to say to another mom like that. I mean, I liked his mom too, but I was much too shy myself to ever make such a call, if the situation were reversed. He, on the other hand, had been full of easy-going personality (mmm…blarney? ) and boyish charm.
Mom had gotten a kick out of it, touched that a child would think of her each year…and looked forward to wishing him a great day as well. Since my own birthday followed by just one day, I’d always sort of felt part of their celebration too…
Now, meeting my eyes, he said softly, “I should’ve continued that…”
“No, that was for the time it was,” I assured him. “And it just meant a lot…”
He didn’t answer, but each of us knew why. His tender boy’s heart had been especially refreshing to a mother whose own son became lost to drugs and death in those years. It wasn’t that we’d seen him that often – busy with growing up, his own family and life — but when we did, it always seemed to be that he was reaching out to let us know he cared. An amazing insightfulness for one so young.
In my mind, I could see him still… stopping by, “out of the blue” just a few weeks after my brother had been killed… wanting to wish me a happy 16th birthday. But really, I knew, trying to take our minds off darkness for just a moment. Bring a little normalcy to what was meant to be a sweet day…
I could see him kidding his sisters, typical sibling stuff…but always knowing what a good brother he was to them…and on occasion…like a brother, to me.
I recalled an odd day in middle school when he’d brought some video equipment to my classroom… and the teacher, disgruntled and self-dissatisfied for whatever reason, had actually ridiculed him outright for “smiling too much.” Shocked, I watched his quizzical, hurt expression…and noticed… he never lost his cool… Maybe…intuitively again…recognizing her lash-out for what it was. An unhappy woman.
I remembered…on the promenade of our junior college…running into him, a welcome friend in a sea of strangers. How he took time to talk, helping put me at ease in my first few days there…
Snapshot memories. This day, here in the church, was filled with them.
After the service, under the arches in the courtyard, he came up to talk a little more, say his condolences. I had to stand on my toes to receive his hug goodbye. Just nice… once again, like having the comfort of a brother there.
“Who was that?” wondered a woman who had once been Laverne to my sister’s Shirley in their high school days.
“Just an old family friend,” I smiled. But I could see that matchmaking glint in her eye. “Married friend,” I added, giving her a squeeze, “with a big family…”
Then, looking around…I thanked God…
For all the dear friends and relatives around us… People who had played such a part in our lives from my earliest memories. Time, life…they had separated most of us into our own lives now. Yet, those ties remain…through decades, as if they were only yesterday.
For him… for writing such a caring heart into a little boy… and for the gentle kindness I could still see in his eyes…
And for mom. I couldn’t help adding, Lord, she would have loved seeing all these people here, celebrating her life today. And wondering if maybe… somehow… she had been there too.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
“…You have, living within you (Jesus), the beauty of His holiness, the kindness of His grace, the freedom of His truth, the compassion of His mercy, the greatness of His power, and the riches of His love. He has freely lavished upon you a treasure house of blessings that you can freely give away to others.” — Roy Lessin, DaySpring co-founder and writer
© Pam Depoyan
I’m linking this post to Ann, at http://www.aholyexperience.com/ – joining the conversation on The Practice of of Love
and to Imperfect Prose at Emily Wierenga’s place