Friends and family expressed their shock and sorrow at the news of Jane’s passing last week. When we met some ten years ago, there was an instant rapport. She was the kind of gal that you would have wanted to be best friends with in high school, I thought to myself. Beautiful and vibrant, Jane touched many lives, warmed many hearts.
One of our mutual friends described her as a woman of wisdom coupled with a down to earth personality. She made you feel at ease when you talked to her. Witty and insightful, she could also make you laugh. She knew how to take the sting out of the problem you brought to discuss with her and direct you to what is really important in life. Hundreds gathered to pay tribute to Jane and offer comfort to her family. More than sadness, there was an outpouring of celebration for this life well lived. It had been an honor to know and love her.
There have been other funerals I’ve attended that were sorrowful with little celebration. I remembered leaving a young woman’s funeral with an ache in my heart. The minister seemed to be questioning the status of her soul. She may have died from an overdose of drugs was the rumor. Not much was spoken on her behalf or for her struggle to overcome and recover from the challenges she had faced in this lifetime, and little mention of her attributes. She, too, was a beautiful woman, a nurturer, who loved her family and friends. We’ve heard it said that some people die so that others may live. They may serve as a catalyst to heal one or many, a wake-up call if you will.
As the Champion of the Underdog, it appears that Jesus viewed all souls as important, some more obvious to us than others, some disguised in their cloaks of mental illness.
In the early 70’s an inner prodding began which has come and gone but never truly left me. Call it grace. The awareness of this inner grace was triggered by a family member’s suicide. The presiding priest, one of her best friends, barely spoke her name at graveside. It was an upsetting experience for mother and me. During the ritual, I noticed a friend’s hand trembling on my mother’s shoulder. Later, I was to find out that she had leaned over to whisper in mother’s ear of an utterance from God (being Pentecostal, she practiced and believed in prophecy, a gift of the Holy Spirit):
The voice said, “If you love this woman (laid to rest), then how much more do you think that I love her and she is with me in paradise”. Since then I have never doubted her eternal soul or anyone else’s for that matter.
Yesterday, on the front porch of the nursing home we sat in the cool of the day, with our petite red haired friend, mid way into her eighties. We’ll call her BJ. We all remarked that it was another colorful autumn with vibrant hues of red, gold and orange displayed before us. The falling leaves and those still in tact were a beautiful sight.
BJ didn’t recognize me at first. Our other friend gave her some background. Actually we’ve known each other for twenty years. As we talked and reminisced her memory seemed to return, her eyes glistened. “What was her secret to a zest for life no matter what her circumstances,” we asked. She smiled and said – “Life is a many-splendored thing, ain’t it great.” One day at a time is how she lives, which took her from trials and tribulations to peace and happiness.
“Cherish every moment, she said, for Life is a Mystery.” Things had happened like she never dreamed they would. She became a secretary, learned short hand in no time, though she thought she would be a nurse. She left business school abruptly, soon after the outbreak of World War II
”I’m going to serve my country and join the Red Cross,” she blurted out. Her brother had been shipped overseas. This was her contribution.
She was very young and sentimental, barely dry behind the ears as were the soldiers. She arranged for emergency leaves due to deaths in their families and other unfortunate events which happened to them, personally, or their loved ones.
“I only cried twice,” she said, not wanting to upset them anymore than they were already. It was an interesting career – most gratifying, yet heart wrenching. The different personalities she encountered were fascinating.
(As a senior citizen I’m beginning to develop more and more appreciation for the wisdom of the elderly and the heightened spirituality of our little ones, as they live in the moment, judge only a little and go with the flow.)
We plan to visit BJ again soon. To rekindle our bond, knowing and not knowing – Life is a mystery, to be lived one day at a time.