It was an oppressive hush that filled the little room. The only sound was the soft strains of a compact disk playing its music through the wall-mounted speakers. Thirty-two people sat in silence on cloth-upholstered metal chairs, each lost in their own thoughts and reminiscences. Tracy Crofton let the words of the background music fill her memory.
“…So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross…” yes, that had been the essence of ‘Mom’s’ life and testimony to the world. “…’Til my trophies at last I lay down…” Tracy could almost see her mother cautiously placing a richly jeweled container before the throne of her Savior and Lord.
“I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross…” For as long as she could remember, Mom had been unashamed of the source of her spiritual strength and peaceful demeanor. “…And exchange it someday for a crown…” In her mind’s eye, there was Mom, kneeling before a glittering throne, as two hands gently placed a diamond-studded tiara on her long, flowing, auburn hair. A sense of joy, mingled with the sorrow of the moment, gave rise to a fresh wave of emotion that ran unashamedly down her cheeks. For the next few moments, Tracy allowed herself the luxury of giving free expression to the grief that had been just below the surface of her emotions for the past number of weeks. They had all known that this hour was imminent, but that knowledge did nothing to diminish the sorrow of the moment.
Tracy fumbled with her small handbag that she carried, desperately searching for a fresh Kleenex. Her search was unsuccessful, and she almost panicked in her embarrassment, until a hand gently but firmly nudged her upper right arm. Turning slightly, she saw the necessary tissue being offered to her from the rugged hand of her older brother, Thomas. There he was again, just when she needed him the most. She gave him a weak, but grateful smile, and he nodded back at her with that strong, understanding half-grin.
The CD was playing the chorus once again, but this time Tracy’s thoughts turned to Thomas. He appeared to be so emotionally stable, but Tracy sensed the turmoil in Thomas’ spirit. No matter how much of a strong, masculine image he tried to portray, she knew that her brother was reaching his breaking point. Mom, and Thomas - they had always shared that special ‘mother-son’ relationship, but in the past few years, Thomas had wandered away from his mother’s rock-solid faith. It seemed to have begun shortly after Dad’s fatal accident, but Tracy knew that the problem had started long before. Now, with the loss of both parents, she had the feeling that the responsibility of her brother’s spiritual life had fallen upon her shoulders. “Dear God, give me strength…” she muttered through her tears, just before the pastor’s voice called her abruptly back to the stark reality of the moment.
The balance of the afternoon was spent in a numb sensation of half-reality. She was aware of Thomas’ strong arm supporting her as they watched the delicately-crafted casket being lowered into the freshly dug plot beside their father’s monument. Again, she drew from his strength, while the women of the church served a light lunch of sandwiches and tea to the small group gathered in the fellowship hall. Inevitably, however, the time of fellowship came to an end, and Thomas walked her to his waiting rental car in the church parking lot. They had agreed that they would spend the night at ‘the house’ before Thomas’ return flight to Vancouver the following day.
The familiar rooms held many pleasant memories for both of them. The normal family banter was absent tonight, but the reminders of their parent’s rock-solid faith were present everywhere. The walnut-stained cross that Dad had fashioned in the shop still hung on the wall above their parent’s bedroom door. The cross-stitched canvas displaying the empty tomb, with the words “He is risen, indeed!” was still in its place above the floral-patterned love-seat. As if to complete the picture, the old, leather-covered family Bible lay open on the cedar-toned coffee table in front of the matching floral-patterned sofa. The scenario held so many memories for both of them as they sat in the holy hush of the room.
Nodding towards the open bible, Tracy broke the awesome silence. “Read to me, Thomas ?!” the request of the ‘little-girl Tracy’ from twenty-five years prior tumbled from her mouth. A look of mutual recognition flashed across his face, as Thomas clumsily reached to retrieve the volume from the table in front of him. Unsure of just where to start, he let his eyes fall to the page where the Bible lay open, and began to read the first words that he saw.
“ Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom …” He began in a strong, masculine voice, but, as his reading progressed, his speech became husky with emotion. Finally, as Thomas read the Bridegroom’s declaration “Verily I say unto you, I know you not…” the conviction became stronger than his will, and Thomas dissolved into tears of remorse. As Tracy reached to comfort her older brother, her mind wondered at the temporary reversal of roles. Throughout their lives, Thomas had always been the strong one, but now, she rose to the occasion, as it became evident that he needed to draw from her strength.
After a few hours of restorative communion, both siblings headed for their respective rooms with tears of joy still evident on their faces. Tracy was still awe-struck at the grace of God, and how the event of their mother’s death could give birth to the ‘new life’ that her brother had finally found that evening. As she yielded to the heaviness of slumber, Tracy was sure that she heard the jubilant voices of both Mother and Father in their sweetest harmony. “ …I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross, and exchange it some day for a crown …”
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