She introduced herself after I settled beside her in the pew at First Presbyterian church in Santa Barbara, California.
Mourners at the service to honor David Winter, former President of Westmont College, Jud’s colleague and our friend.
Three widows in a row, perched like birds on a fence, Sharon , Dorothy and I, thoughtful, awaiting the collective courage and hope that flows from like-minded folks in a service such as this.
After awhile, Dorothy turned to me and said, “I don’t know who I want to see first when I get to heaven. Do you think Jesus will mind if I don’t want to see Him first?”
Not one to ignore a leap into theological or other matters where “angels fear to tread,” I said something like, ”No.”
The service for David and thoughts of Jud reminded me why intuition more than theology nudged the, “No.”
Like Jud and I, David and Helen Winter functioned as a team, long before David became blind.
Their love for each other, true and deep, makes this separation torturous, say I, with my 9 month head start on this wilderness trek.
“That which God hath joined together let no man tear asunder.” But death, for now, does its dastardly ripping, but only until . . . .
So yes, dear Helene and others who suffer from this wrenching loss, since we’ve known love so well on this earth, I don’t think Jesus will mind who we rush to see first. He, who is Love, understands. It helps me to picture Helene hunting David and me seeking Jud when we show up on that other shore.
But, then, Jesus just may send them as escorts. David, without his white cane, Jud “all better,” reaching, so eager to scoop us up and show us around.
You fill in the blank of who you’ll seek with eyes no longer dulled by blindness, pain, loss, unforgiveness or the cares of this world.
This is no time to talk theology with me.
I need visions of One Day.
So will Helene.
So probably do some of you, widows, widowers and others weeping with lines of well-wishers or behind closed doors sobbing about that which only you and Love know.
The verse under David’s photo in the program read, ”For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13:12
One of God’s grand gifts to us, the gift of wonder, to know something but not everything.
David found a gift hidden inside blindness. He called blindness his “new adventure.” David taught that, ”vision is not just sight” and lived his discovered truth that “in some ways I’ve never seen so clearly.”
Helene and David sang hymns together at night. We sang one of their favorites at his service. There’s comfort in sung truth. Huddled together, sorrowing folks, declaring that which we don’t always feel as we look ahead but know to be true when we look back and see God’s hand in our lives.
So we sing by heart one more time:
“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
Funerals. Such significant gatherings of those who’ve experienced love and loss. Folks, who, after the service, cluster together in restaurants, homes or church fellowship halls, eating as a form of communion, crying and remembering, telling stories and laughing, hugging, nodding or signaling some way to the red-eyed freshly minted sorrowers that life goes on. Must go on.
That life, while hard, is good.
Reminders that grief and great gladness share space within the heart.
David and Jud would not wish us stuck on what was.
It’s not easy, Helene, nor is it impossible.
You’ll see “morning by morning new mercies,” though sometimes I don’t catch on until nightfall or days later.
And I promise you that “all you need God’s hand will provide.”
I’m learning to offer my soggy pillow to the One who loves me and Jud.
The One who cries with us, as he did with Lazarus, and knows in His grand plan that it’s not all that long until we’ll all be Home.
All God’s children, racing around like kids at a picnic, hunting the one we’ve been just dying to see again.
And Jesus might be over by the dessert table, smiling and laughing with folks from all over the earth, enjoying a slice of watermelon and the even sweeter sight of all His family together at last, not giving a second thought to who ran to Him first.
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