A little over a week ago, folks braved the freezing cold to attend the memorial service of Mary Garfield Johnson, my friend, Meredith Joss’s mother. The service felt more like a retreat or attending a class with a life coaches.
Mary lived life full and well for more than 95 years. She believed, “If you’re going to have an opinion, it might as well be a strong one.” Her family knew she,”looked forward in faith and looked back with gratitude.” We owe a lot to that generation.
The stories told by the family, scriptures read and hymns sung seemed to weave us together, giving hints on how to live better, to age with humility, to fully live until we die. Funerals matter because people matter. We laughed at foibles, learned from truth telling, reminders that love costs. The day honored one woman, the family and the Christ she loved faithfully.
This past week, I’ve mulled over Meredith’s reflections about her mother, a very strong personality, like my mother. Meredith referenced Mark 14, the story of the woman who poured perfume on the head of Jesus. Some rebuked her but Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing for me…she did what she could.” Meredith said of her mother, “She did what she could.”
It’s important to feel needed, useful as we age. Mary took on the family laundry. When it became too much for her to do washing and ironing,(even ironing socks!), she sat in her chair and carefully folded the clothes. “She did what she could.”
One day, this strong woman said to Meredith,” My brain is so mushy sometimes. You need to tell me what to do and I will do it.” Humility. When my Mama, who’d been a nurse for most of 50 years, was close to death, she said,” Pray that I’ll be brave.” Life coaches.
This morning at church, I thought of Jud and others who’ve gone on ahead when I heard,”Therefore we praise you(God), joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven…” Pondering those sounds and sights, blesses this February day with a sense of spring, a basket of hope, encouragement to keep on, to “do what I can,” with what I have, while I can.
It will be said that Mary Garfield Johnson, age 95, died of natural causes. But death, no matter how nicely put is still unnatural. What’s natural is what follows for God’s children. Heaven.
The Johnson and Joss families loved reading the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, so it was a fitting ending to include some favorite quotes. I’ve listed one to encourage us as we journey on and consider someone we love and miss who is now among the company of heaven.
“This,” said Reepicheep, “is where I go on alone.” Then he bade them goodbye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness.” from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Hope springs eternal.
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