How Do You Say Goodbye?

A dear friend of mine went to the hospital for ‘routine’ surgery. On the operating table, they discovered her body was full of cancer.  That was last Friday.  Today is Monday.  She is not expected to live past this evening.

And still, she smiles. She jokes.  With a little less life, a little less breath, she smiles and she jokes as she tells the doctor to get back to work because she has nothing to do but wait for her eyes to close.  She smiles because she knows when her eyes close what she will see when she opens them again.

I told her to tell Jesus that I want a yellow house, just like the one her and I and another friend use to go to for lunch and pie.  Always pie. Always a la mode.  Always.  Sometimes we may not have wanted the soup or the sandwich (rarely), but always the pie.  As you can sense, it was good pie.  We always ordered two slices of pecan a la mode and one slice of sour cream and raisin a la mode.  Warmed just a tad bit.

One day we went flower picking.  Dahlias in bright pinks, yellows, reds, purples.  Petals of practically every color of the rainbow greeted us as we pushed open the wooden gate to her friend’s backyard.  A backyard of dahlias covered the bare dirt and stood up to six feet tall.  She snipped and clipped blooms while I snapped pictures of every one I could.  We laughed.  We talked.  It was one of the highlights of my life.  A bright summer day.

I used to work in a church office. Someone received a bouquet of beautiful red roses and I had to deliver them to the recipient.  How I wished they had been for me.  As I rounded the corner going back to my office, my dear, dear, dear, dear friend was there.  She was holding a green glass vase full of deep and light purple lilacs that she had clipped in her yard and brought to me.  The fragrance seeped into my soul and refreshed my spirit.  She was my angel that day.  She loved flowers as much as I did.

She will be Home in a few hours.  The angels must be setting the table as I write.  They are probably humming as they go – excited by the near arrival of mydear friend.  We who are left behind however, weep the loss of this saint.  This one who frowned upon gossip and never said an unkind word about anyone.  This one near 80 years old, who giggled like a little girl. This one who had the gift of encouragement and sent handmade cards regularly and often to cheer others up.  This friend who, when there was a need, did what she could.  This one I call dear.  This one the Father calls Beloved.

I shiver when I look up into the sky and think this could be the moment when Christ is standing at the gate, welcoming her home in His arms.  I thank my God that two weeks ago I made the time to sit with her while I was in hers state and share lunch.  Her and our other dear friend.  Just like old times.  Two of my very favorite people. .

My dahlias are blooming.  When I look at them I think of my friend.  When I look at them from now on, I will remember her.  Her smile, her spirit, her giggle, her generosity, and her ability to bring sunshine into the lives of so many others.

I will miss you so much, dear, sweet friend.  But I know that someday I will see you again.  And when I do, we’ll enjoy some ‘heavenly’ pecan pie – a la mode, of course.  And the fellowship will be oh so sweet.

On Being A Pumpkin

Finn's Pumpkins Photo by Sherri Woodbridge
Finn’s Pumpkins
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

I once heard someone compare being a Christian with that of being a pumpkin. They said that being a pumpkin is likened to being a Christian because we are, like a pumpkin, carefully lifted up from the pumpkin patch of life, snipped from the old vine of life and what happens next, I believe, depends on us – the pumpkin.

We can crawl up and hide inside a nice, warm oven where no one will see us and in doing so, we can lose our witness, shrivel up and die. Or, we can be created into something brand new. I’m not sure about you, but the second option sounds much more appealing to me than the first.

My experience with pumpkin vines is that they can tend to be prickly, much like life itself. They can be appealing in some ways but if you get too close, you get pricked. You tend to walk away with scratches from getting to close to the vine. But what a gift when the Master Gardener reaches down and saves us from the stings and the pricks and the stickers! It is then that the transformation begins. It begins with cleaning, gutting, and washing. I am certain at this point that some wish they had remained there on the ground.

If we allow God to do his miraculous work within us, He’ll begin by opening us up. That is often a very vulnerable and frightening place for many of us to be, especially if we come from places where we tend to hide from the rest of the world. After we have been “exposed”, He reaches in and begins to get rid of the “junk” inside. He scrapes and he pulls. The more we resist, the longer it takes, the more it hurts.

Then there finally comes a time when we are made clean – made clean by the righteousness of Christ. One day we are sitting in the dirt, basking in the warm sun without a care in the world, and the next day we are being opened up and cleaned out. Cleansed from rubbish in our lives that so easily gets a hold and before we know it, it’s attached itself to our life in such a way so that it actually is very painful to remove.

Sin does that. It looks appealing and it always sounds fun. It takes root and creates a painful mess. If we let God have His way and love us as only He can, He gives us a brand new look. He cleans us out and puts a light inside for all to see. A light that shines brightly in the darkness through a smile filled with joy.

I have pondered over the pumpkin patch. I have thought how wonderful it is to have been cleaned out by holy hands for a holy purpose by a holy God. It gives me shivers. Who would have thought we could have taken an ordinary pumpkin and seen the very hand of God upon it in such a way? How magnificent the comparison of an ordinary pumpkin with that of the life of a brand new Christian.

A brand new face, eyes that see like His, a joyful smile, the light of his Spirit shining through us into a dark world – Doesn’t it make you just want to be a pumpkin?!