Yesterday, more than a year later, I walked into 2 funeral homes for viewings and also attended a funeral for the first time. I knew it could stir some things. But I didn't know it would stir so much.
The first was for my aunt. I went alone. I walked in knowing many faces, but not sure which would remember me. Those situations take me out of my comfort zone. But I pressed forward because I know what it meant to have people there for me in those moments.
The second was for a wonderful, loving, funny, Godly man from my church. I first met his wife, Betty, 4 years ago in my "Breaking Free" Bible study. I fell in love with this sweet, Godly, wise woman! I even told her she was my "adopted church mom" and she continues to refer to herself that way! Virgil, her husband, as well as Betty are the face, hands, and feet of Jesus in human form. He served in many ways in our church. He greeted before the service frequently and always offered a hug and his beaming smile! And as a bonus, since I have lost my weight, he referred to me as "skinny lady"...not gonna deny how much I loved hearing those words! A couple of weeks ago, Virgil had a stroke, and like Dave, the Lord decided to give him the ultimate healing and took him home.
Virgil's viewing was held at the same funeral home as Dave's. I dreaded walking in. I would be lying if I said, there were not multiple times I wanted to turn my van around and drive back home. But I know retreat is not the answer when we battle. Even if it is just a battle of our comfort. And when I got there, I couldn't just walk in, pay my respects, and walk out. There was a line...a LONG line. A line that required me to wait and look around, and walk through, and stand, in the same room Dave was in for 80 long minutes. I was alone again. I couldn't get out of line and go chat with someone I knew, because I would lose my spot in the line. So I stood the majority of the time in silence with my thoughts and emotions. I watched Betty, standing by her husband, and remembered. I remembered hugging so many. Saying the same words, "We know where he is....his life's work is done...I will see him again." I was revisiting THAT day. I thought about her all day, the time she spent in front of a mirror preparing to walk out of the door to go see that face that she loved. How hard it was to make the drive to the funeral home. How much you don't want to get out of your car and walk in. If you could just fast forward to the day it doesn't hurt any more. The psychotic beast of grief then takes you to the flip side of the beautiful hope we have in Jesus. Just knowing what he is experiencing! The joy that is in front of him. The fact that he gets to worship at the feet of the One who is Worthy. As I stood in that line, so many thoughts went through my head. It was hard and I wanted to retreat, but I knew I couldn't. And truthfully I wanted to be there for Betty. I know. I have been there. And I did it. Steps forward yet again...
This morning was the funeral. And just like Dave, it was held in our church. I walked in alone. I sat in the back. I hoped someone would sit with me or I could find someone I knew to sit with through the service. I really didn't want to be alone. God brought a sweet man who is a pastor locally to join me. He and his wife prayed for Dave and I and have followed my journey some since Dave passed. We were able to chat and it was a time for me to rejoice and share how God has provided so greatly for me through the past year. It was a sweet time of testimony to God's goodness in my life.
As I sat, I also watched. I watched as Betty took her seat. The seat of honor as I referred to it. The seat of the widow. The one who loved that man like no other person has loved that man. I remembered so vividly when it was my turn. I remember feeling the strength and presence of the Lord so closely. How in that moment of the deepest pain a soul carries, being able to also rejoice and worship in awe because we know where our husband is at that very moment. The service begins and words are shared. We laugh. We cry. Then we worship. We stand in awe of our loving Jesus who has made the way that we don't deserve. I watched Betty and remembered exactly how I felt that day, as she stood and lifted her hands in praise of our Savior, I remembered. I felt again, all I felt THAT day. Such sorrow, but such hope. Such sadness, but such joy. Such peace...that passes our human understanding.
Then it was my turn to walk by the family. I hugged her close and I told her. I told her I felt her heart. And I did because I have that widow's heart as well. I remember. I don't think you can ever forget.
I know I have been called to minister to women. I had no idea that one I would reach out to as a new widow would be one I admire so much. And my heart aches for her and for the days she has ahead of her. I love her dearly and I hurt for the pain she has ahead. But just like me, she knows the Prince of Peace and I know Betty will walk through this process and rest in her Jesus.
I shed a few tears through the funeral. Touched by the love of our Savior and the love others had for Virgil. I shed some tears knowing the pain they are experiencing. As I left and drove away though, the dam broke and the tears poured. They poured because I was there just one year ago...and I was there again today. But I was there with the eyes of one who's heart has been touched with the salve of healing that only our loving Jesus brings. I sat in that psychotic moment of one who is grieving and healed at the same time. It was a bizarre, painful, beautiful moment. As wordy as I am, I don't have the words. It was as if I was in two places at once. I sit now, with tears streaming because of it all.
As much as this has touched my heart and life, today is not about me. Today, I honor Virgil Haynes. He was a light in this dark world. His smile brightened the room. He loved those that Jesus loves. He was the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to the world around him! (and he called me skinny lady!) So, Virgil, do me a favor and say hello to Dave for me. Tell him, I am good. I am really good! God has blessed and provided and healed! I am embracing and living life and it is GOOD!!! Virgil, you are loved. My life was blessed because I knew you.
And for you Betty...you are a woman of incredible faith. The road ahead will be not be easy. There is a new normal. You loved deeply and because you loved deeply , the pain is deep. And I know you wouldn't have it any other way. You too, are a shining example of the Savior's love on this earth. I admire you. And I am honored to walk this journey with you. I have been and continue to pray for you. I am only a phone call away. I love you deeply!
THAT day...that day when you taste what God has so freely offered. The peace of knowing where our husband is because God has chosen to give his son for us. He is worth of it all.
I saw the funeral director today that worked with me when Dave passed away. I think it is only fitting as I remember the song he shared in his office as I was finalizing Dave's arrangements to share it yet again because He is..."Worthy of it ALL"!!