It always seems to be the bitter, cold, rainy days. Yesterday morning I took my familiar perch behind the piano at Noelridge as an aging group of family and friends gathered to remember the life of a dear lady who passed away last week. Save for a few grandchildren present, at age 31 I was easily the youngest person in the room, and my position at the piano gave me forty minutes’ opportunity to study the faces of those assembled.
It was a wrinkled and care-worn group gathered yesterday; five pews filled with family grieving a loss forseen for some time now during battles with cancer, a dozen more pews of friends, each remembering happier times. Fairlene was remembered as a “feisty” woman whose love for family and desire to serve could be seen in the faces of her sons as they sang “Amazing Grace”, and in the pulpit that she and her husband hand-crafted for the church sanctuary. Her death was in many ways a sorrow – as deaths always are – but in many ways a relief; Fairlene is now free from her pain and suffering and is rejoicing in the presence of God.
As I looked around the room I saw faces that reminded me of other similar gatherings. There in the back was Dave, who sat in the same front row grieving a wife lost to cancer seven years ago. A row nearer sat Wanda, remembering her husband who has been with the Lord for several years now. Each one came in quietly, shared the sorrow and memories, sang the hymns of trust and assurance, and then bundled up to face the bitter wind at the grave site.
My schedule forced me to make an exit at this point, but I knew how the day would continue. Soon they would return to the church for the lunch awaiting them in the basement fellowship hall, and as the sandwiches, salads, jellos, and desserts were eaten the quietness of grief would slowly be replaced by the happier babble of life, the telling of stories, the shrieking of small children, the laughter at the memory of times past. And this, too, is life. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
This morning the sky was clear as the sun came up, and it gave a hint of hope to the cold air. Fairlene’s hopes were fulfilled on Thursday night as she left us to be with her Savior. In the words of the psalmist that were read yesterday: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We can though, like Fairlene, have hope in the God who has been our dwelling place in all generations.