Death ends a life,
not a relationship.
-Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie
Yesterday was a bright and sunny day in Spokane, the kind of day you long for all winter long. The air was a bit brisk, just enough so that you might wear a sweater or light jacket. The sun was out in dibs and dabs and big white clouds floated by.
I had the feeling those puffy, white marshmallow floaters were looking down on us and smiling as if they chuckled at all of the scurrying activity that goes along with the first signs of a real spring.
No one can truly understand how that inkling of warm weather is celebrated unless you have had a real winter. And here in Spokane we have about five months of cold and chill and ice and snow and freezing. Brrrrrrr.
Yet no matter how much I tried to tried to embrace all of the optimism of a beautiful day, my heart was just so heavy. Yesterday was my dear friend Donna Phinney's memorial service. Not only that, another friend from the college is going through some brutal and public humiliation, and I have been keeping him in my prayers almost minute-by-minute.
As I drove up to the north side, espresso in hand, I listened to my Casting Crowns CD. That's my go-to music every morning as I head to go teach at the college. It's such a clear reminder of God's presence in the midst of earthly chaos.
As always, I was ahead of schedule since I just hate, and I do mean hate, being even close to late. I'm an early bird, really.
I'm so old fashioned as to believe that if you are right on time, to the second, you are really kind of late. So as I meandered up to the north side, I took a familiar road, a comforting one really. The memorial service was not far from where my oldest daughter lives so it's almost like my car knew the way automatically.
And then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a small bakery and coffee shop by a gas station, a sight I recognized and had been in maybe once. I had no intention of stopping, even though I had extra time.
Yet a nudging started in my heart, almost a whisper to go in there. I fought with that familiar nudging (God's whisper) and then said aloud, "Okay, I'll go in. I have no idea why you want me to go in there." (said with just a tad of sarcasm to the good Lord Almighty.) A kind of "I'll follow your leadings, but I don't have to like it" moment.
As long as I was there, I thought I'd get some chocolate and butterscotch muffins for Bert, use the restroom and then head to the memorial service, lickety-split. No delays, just a quick stop.
As I left the restroom, walking at a good clip headed to my car with muffins in hand, I heard a voice call out my name. I turned, almost like I had been distracted, and there he was...with his wife and friends, looking oh so sad. My friend from the college who has been publicly humiliated.
And God stopped me in my tracks. I immediately went to their table, threw my arms around Mike and gave him a huge hug, and told him I had been praying for him this very morning. He introduced his wife and friends and explained to them that out of his hundreds of colleagues, I was the only one who had come to see him after it all hit the fan. I felt sort of embarrassed as he said that.
You see I remembered the moment exactly. I was walking by his classroom and got another "nudging" from God. I listened and went in, not knowing how much it would mean to Mike.
Isn't it AMAZING how God works!!
So here at this coffee shop we had a brief conversation and Mike asked what I was doing on the north side. I told him about Donna's memorial service and that I had felt "led" to come into the coffee shop, a nudging from God for sure.
After meeting everyone at the table, I left to get in the car, get to the church and be a part of celebrating the life of my very dear friend. Yet during the drive to the church I talked out loud to God...apologizing for my "how could you bother me to go in there?" attitude and thanking Him for being my wonderful Father. I also told Him that I felt so sad to come to this service to say goodbye to my dear friend, Donna.
And almost as if He was actually sitting in the seat next to me and nudging me again, a quote from one of my favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie, came floating by my mind and heart, just like those beautiful and full clouds I saw this morning.
"Death ends a life, Linda, not a relationship."
Donna was physically gone, she had gone home to Jesus.
Yet she was as real in my heart as if I could pick up a phone and call her. Maybe even more real.
I have that same comforting feeling about my dear Mama who went to be with God. She is gone physically gone, which is so, so hard, but her spirit is right there with me... all the time. I talk to her just like I did when she was here. I tell her, "Oh Mom, you would have loved to see how the grandkids were at the Easter egg hunt at our house."
As I arrived at the church, and pulled into a parking lot filled with cars, I took a deep breath and said a prayer. "Be with me God, please be with me." And He was. I walked into that memorial service feeling full of God's love and at peace, really at peace. His peace that is beyond all earthly understanding.
Several hours later I left the memorial service and came home to have a cup of coffee with my beloved Bert. We took our java to our favorite old-fashioned swing in our backyard.
It's our favorite place to talk.
I told Bert how sad I had been about both Mike and Donna and that I felt like God, in His grace, had really ministered to my heart during that whole car ride, the coffee shop, and then the memorial service. Bert just smiled and took my hand. He's wise that way, my honey is.
And without a pause Bert whispered, "Death ends a life, honey, not a relationship," and my tears just started to flow and run down my face in buckets. Sometimes it takes a message repeated time and time again for me to really hear the meaning. How grateful I am that God is so patient in helping me know His truth for me.
Yes, God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good.
"We are all just walking each other home." ...