I had no idea that grieving is such a long and difficult process.
Living in a parsonage all my life (first as a preacher's kid, then as a preacher's wife) has positioned me to walk alongside grieving people since I was very young. But I had no idea how intense and all-consuming it is.
My earliest experience was with a classmate in seventh grade who lost her mom and counted me as her best friend. I stayed with her through the viewing, the funeral, the limousine ride, the phone calls and visitors. Such a strange world for twelve year old girls.
Then I went home, crawled up on the bed beside my mom and cried. The task had been overwhelming to me and I wondered if I could ever live without my mom who was truly my best friend.
Alice Burke really was the best friend a kid could ever have. She was always interested in basically two things: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Do you know how to have fun? She firmly believed that the two went together.
My mom was the life of every party! Ask anyone who ever attended one with her. I remember parties being planned at our home for the young adults, the children's choir, the young married couples, the board members and their wives, the visiting evangelistic team............. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Mom planned so many parties just so she could attend them! Smile.
I also know for a fact that many people (kids and counselors alike) would choose their week of youth camp based on when my mom would be attending. She was at her best when there was a prank to be pulled or a joke to be told; she couldn't pass up an audience.
And she would drop everything to sit for an hour or so to listen to anyone who needed a dose of compassion blended with a pinch of "kick in the pants." Mom didn't tolerate slackers or whiners.
"Own up to your mess; ask Jesus for help; then get on with it!" That was her philosophy and people knew it before they ever came to see her.
Mom wasn't a theologian; she never was privileged to attend college. (Although, she would have made an excellent English teacher.) But she did have an uncanny ability to read people; she gave wonderful common sense advice; she made everyone think they were her dearest friend; and she dispensed ample doses of laughter to all she encountered.
Her own life wasn't easy; actually, it was full of disappointments. But she firmly believed that we have a choice to either laugh or cry everyday and she chose to laugh.
During our altar time at church on Sunday, John was playing a hymn that triggered a great memory for me. I suddenly had a perfectly clear image of my mom when she was about thirty-five, sitting on the piano bench in our home. She didn't play herself, but she had me teach her one of her favorite hymns so she could play it from memory.
Once she had mastered the basic parts of "There is a Fountain," she wasn't content to keep playing it in the standard way prescribed by the hymnal. No, way! Mom proceeded to syncopate the chords of the otherwise straight-laced music. And she had a pronounced bounce while sitting on that old bench; singing along to her own accompaniment.
If I close my eyes, I can see her plainly; hear her rich alto voice; feel her warmth as I snuggled close; sense the joy and delight of simple pleasure. Sigh.
I've always believed that scripture would be more accurate if interpreted "Costly is the home going of His saints." It is costly to my heart that my precious mom is no longer on this earth. But when I step away from selfishness for just one moment, I can always hear her pretty clearly; laughing loudly and saying to the angel next to her, "Did you ever hear the one about the three preachers in the fishing boat?"
Yep, that would be my mama!