I went to school in a rush today, and left behind me a wake of needs answered and needs unmet. I walked into work with a myriad of needs to be addressed, some ordinary, some extra. I checked things off the list, and tried to be “all there” in the midst of putting out this fire or that, checking off this list or that. And at 11:00, it hit me. The funeral was today.
A teacher who had retired had just lost her husband on Tuesday. Although he had many health concerns as a result of an aneurism 20 years ago, it was a shock that he had passed. I had never met him, but had heard stories of him. His wife always spoke affectionately of the down-to-earth man named Walter. Well, at the funeral I learned more about Walter. Half of his body was paralyzed so his speech was very short and intelligible mainly to those in his close circle of family and friends. He kept people on their toes so to speak as he checked things like whether they had brought their Bibles to church and he was very involved in helping in whatever way he could. He did what he could. When I said to his wife that I wished I had known him, she looked at me and said, “I do, too! He was wonderful!” Yep, a few tears fell at the funeral for sure.
He did what he could in the midst of a lot of limitations. Accepted them, pushed through them, and impacted the lives around him in the midst of them. He was adored for who he was before the aneurism, and for who he was as a result. Through it all, he was Walter. Walter whose wife had to take the keys away from him as she discovered one day that he had been driving his truck to see his friends at his old work place. He, who, once the keys were taken away, used the lawnmower to drive through the city to see whose friends. He who replied “Good Lord!” to his spirited wife Phyllis as upon seeing him drive through town on his tractor one day, stopped traffic and cleared the way for her beloved, stubborn, tenacious, and also-spirited self to make it home safely. She helped him pass through town safely, and was with him in the journey.
He will be dearly missed.
Yes, I had forgotten the funeral that day and was a bit mortified to be showing up in khakis, a simple shirt, and …flip flop type sandals. Not the attire I would’ve chosen, and because of that, I almost didn’t go. I didn’t want to be disrespectful in my attire. But…I’m so glad I showed up. Because to me, it was all a beautiful reminder of how we’re all just passing through. All of us. And I don’t think his wife minded what I was wearing. It was a reminder to me that just ‘showing up’ a lot of times is what matters. Being there for others, side by side, wherever we are, as we’re just passing through.
He was laid to rest in a beautiful cemetery with military honors. Flags, bugles, uniforms, dresses, suits, leather jackets, jeans, and flip flops were all there at that ceremony. The grass was green, the sky was blue, the wind was blowing freely, and it was just sweet. People said their goodbyes….and those who loved him will probably take years to truly let go. But that’s the beautiful thing. We’re all just passing through, alongside each other for who knows what amount of time.
That night, I had a little time with my young 16 year old son. I told him the story of Walter. I took him to the beautiful cemetery lined with trees that had been present through many a funeral procession. These trees had been passed by people coming and going, to lay loved ones to rest, to visit, to grieve, or just to enjoy the beauty of a serene place. We drove through in our four door sedan and I talked to my son about Walter. I wanted him to hear the story of how a man made the most of his time in the midst of some life challenges that would seem overwhelming to some.
He listened, and seemed to be taking it all in until his Dad called and said, “Yeah, it’s tough having to be 16 and not have your license and have to drive through a cemetery with your Mom talking and taking pictures.” And the son? He made a joke, too. But he got it. We were driving through that cemetery for a short time, but he got it. The Truth of how we’re all ‘just passing through’, and making the most our time where we are wherever we are. Whether we’re in a limousine, a four-door sedan, flip-flops or a lawnmower, we’re just passing through.
And when we get to our final destination? What we are driving or wearing won’t matter a bit. Not one single teeny tiny bit.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” …