Recently I had a serious case of the blahs and I’m pretty sure it can all be traced back to a bag of Twizzlers. I was at Target on a regular Monday buying essentials when I took a turn through the food section to make sure there weren’t any sale items I couldn’t pass up.
Sure enough, a jumbo bag of my favorite candy–really the only candy I’ll waste calories on besides chocolate–stared me down from the shelf, shouting my name with bold red numbers. I was an easy sell as I was already in a Does-it-Really-Matter? mood buzzing with questions like, “Is anything I’m saying to my kids getting through? Will the laundry every be ‘Put Away’? Does eating healthy even make a difference?”
You know the one.
This mood typically has me going through the motions of the day with the single goal of making it to kids’ bedtimes so I can enter la-la land where the only challenge is whether Sarah on Parenthood will end up with the cute doctor or the strange-but-sweet photographer.
This particular week, however, there was a big problem called “The Winter Olympics” crowding out my usual shows, leaving me with nothing to watch and I was even prepared with candy. (The nerve!)
(Enter The Shahs of Sunset–material with which I refuse to waste your precious time as Bravo already wasted a staggering twenty-eight minutes of mine).
The long and short of it is: I let a two-dollar pack of Twizzlers push me around and tell me it was better to lie on the couch and numb the pain of the arguing sisters and the exorbitant insurance premiums than to face reality and do responsible things.
So it was with this freshly-accumulated baggage that I arrived at a memorial service for a friend’s mother one crisp Saturday morning. We filed into the chapel, whispering our “hello”s, and soon began hearing stories of this beloved matriarch who would’ve turned ninety next month.
A son-in-law took the stand and got out exactly five words before I leaned into a friend in reach of a tissue box, saying “Pass that down. I’m gonna be needing those.” We then both proceeded to drip tears to the tune of eighteen tissues over the next hour.
We learned that this woman’s deceased husband had been an alcoholic and that their marriage had been a steep mountain to climb. There were tales of daughters and boyfriends, heartache and pie-baking, girls married off and one who remains single, and a grown son who’d passed on ahead of her. And somewhere in the middle of the details it was mentioned she prayed for FORTY YEARS for her husband to come to know the Lord.
If I could’ve fallen in a heap to the ground and balled my eyes out without attracting too much attention I would have. Her family didn’t put on airs or stage a cover-up but, instead, bravely revealed her portrait in both its glory and its pain.
“Sometimes you have to pray forty years before you see your prayers answered,” her son-in-law added quietly.
One of her four adult daughters read a favorite entry from a devotional book. It could be said she has “special needs” but there was something about her delivery–words spoken through unadorned lips with stops and starts–that reminded us all of Our Greatest Need.
This child-like grown-up helped me see the smallness of my cares and how it all comes down to one simple truth: We’re all in desperate need of a rescue. We all have prayers unanswered and few of us have the resolve to keep at it for forty years.
When Death comes there’s a moment in time when all else comes to a halt and, even if only for a fleeting second, there’s a recognition that we aren’t in control after all. It’s a reality built into us we’ve always known but are doing our best to avoid.
We have limitations. Do we keep spinning or surrender?
There in that chapel, sandwiched between friends who know my story, I heard about pain and was reminded of my sin. I was shown glimpses of one family’s frailty and humanity and reflected on my own.
And that is exactly as it should be.
Because after the laying down that Death requires, there is a beautiful thing that rises in a person–a family–who calls upon the name of Jesus. A four-letter word of a different kind.
Hope in something beyond this. Hope that lives past today and carries us into an unending chain of tomorrows. Hope who is close enough to us in the couch-lying, candy-eating dark nights of our existence to whisper, “It won’t always be this way. A day is coming when I will dry all your tears. There will be dancing and a wedding and more pie-making and lots and lots of togetherness that will never ever end.”
But, first…first comes death. Because only after death is there the hope and reality of a resurrected life.
Although I’d never laid eyes on you until seeing your pictures on the screen in the chapel that Saturday, I look forward to sitting down with you over a cup of coffee–may be with my grandmother who would’ve also been ninety this year–and watching what must be the finest replacement for bad reality TV: our respective children, whom we never had the chance to know, running and jumping and crawling into the lap of Our Favorite One.
Or maybe they’ll be grown, sitting with us, cradling mugs too. Either way, you’ve got some time on your hands so I’ll go ahead and put in my order for what’s sure to test your talent and creativity to it’s outer-most limits: a slice of freshly baked Twizzler pie. Now that’s something I’d like to see…
If these words have the teeny-tiniest meaning to you would you kindly help me by sharing?
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