Fighting for Joy.
My Papaw died when I was 14. He was 74.
Pretty darn young.
But grandparents die. At 14 I remember being sad. I remember sneaking into the back of the De Queen hospital so that we could visit him and thinking we were total rebels.
I remember his color.
I loved my Papaw.
I loved the way he put his cornbread in his milk.
I loved the way he turned his biscuits upside down before he poured KARO syrup on the top.
I loved the way he would holler for the mamma cows. Suk, Suk, Suk.
And I was sad, but I don’t remember being sad for others.
I don’t remember recognizing my Mamaw’s loss.
I don’t remember recognizing my Daddy’s loss. He was 41 and they had worked side by side, every day, for almost all of those 41.
It never occurred to my 14-year-0ld senses that my Mamaw would live for the next 25 years.
Or my dad, Fatherless at 40.
Or my mom, Fatherless, twenty years earlier.
And we buried my Grandmother.
And we buried aunts and uncles.
And Aunt Ida Margaret who, if she were still living, would so so so much love that song about girls, we run the world.
Because Aunt Ida, from her little corner in SWArkansas? She totally ran the world.
Growing up, my mom modeled what it meant to act out God’s word.
We are to care for the widows and the orphans.
And we did. And she still does.
I visit Merrick Manor twice a week and we sing and we exercise and I physcially touch them and hold them and the close their eyes and they are the widows.
But I get paid and so it’s less “hands and feet” and more, you know, paycheck.
Mostly it’s women, but this week? Men! Lots of them.
And let me just tell you—-
Old men love me.
Not so much with men my own age. But the old guys?
A few weeks ago I was walking into the country club and I held the door for an older gentleman.
He smiles big, “I’ve been waiting all day for a beautiful woman to open the door for me.”
And I’m quick, “Well, I’ve been waiting all day for someone to call me a beautiful woman.”
And we laughed. And it was sweet. But only because he was old.
If the guy had been my age, he wouldn’t have called me beautiful.
And I wouldn’t have spoken.
And I probably would’ve been annoyed that he hadn’t opened the door for me.
Back to the Manor.
Jim calls me over.
“You are so cute. Really. I just think you are so cute. I like that skirt.”
And he’s holding me a little too tight.
And it’s bordering on inappropriate.
But he’s old.
And he’s alone.
And I think about my Mamaw. And the men that pursued her. One dude even offered to bring over a squirrel.
And cook it.
She politely declined.
She and Papaw? A love story.
And 25 years she’s been alone.
And then I think back several months ago when a dying man, last days on hospice looked straight into me and said,
“You have a nice chest.”
And I laughed long and loud.
Because I have no chest.
And we are called to care for the widows and the orphans and we are called to be the hands and the feet.
And widows are not always old and orphans are not always young—
And sometimes it’s not even death that brings you to that place—
There are other ways of becoming a widow.
Of becoming an oprhan.
And this is something I know.
My generation. My friends.
On the cusp (over slightly over it!) of 40.
“We are getting so old!!!”
But there’s my friend. My new friend and my fast friend and I’m not super comfortable with people I don’t know, which is another reason moving to the little railroad town in Nebraska was so super fun, but I see my soon-to-be friend sitting alone and the Lord nudges me and I’m like, “Jesus, are you crazy?”
I don’t know her! And she’s like awesome cool. And the Lord nudges me again.
And I say again, “Jesus, are you crazy?!”
She has a world of friends. And family. And she doesn’t need me. And I can’t talk to her because she’s not old.
She is so, so, so.
But stupid ugly death came and made her a widow.
And Jesus is driving me ever-living-crazy so I leave my comfy group of girls and I stumble and I stutter and I introduce and she is crazy sweet (and still crazy cool) but I’m grateful that I sometime listen to Jesus.
And she says, in repsonse to the almost 40 crowd.
Are not old.
And there was something in hearing her say that. Something in being reminded of our youth and the gift of today and something about the cloud of grief that still sits heavy over Fremont and something about seeing death in an uglier and darker way over the past weeks and months and these are not Papaws.
These are babies. Sons. Husbands. Fathers.
And yes, there is life in death.
And yes, there is a way back to the joy.
And yes, yes, yes! We have to fight hard.
For the joy.
For our children.
For those who are gone.
And I’m trying to say it right, and I’m scared I’ll mess it up, but there is something that has happened.
I’m not angry anymore.
I mean there are days, like today, with my kiddos gone—too far away—and for far too long—and I miss them and I ache for them and I don’t sleep and I stay up crazy late hours so that when my head hits the pillow, sleep will come more quickly,
But I am not angry.
And I’m fighting hard for the joy.
And I went to an R-rated movie last night.
And I laughed.
And I remember my Papaw’s laugh.
And I am grateful to have remembered my own.