I felt the presence of God for the first time while attending a funeral as a small girl. Of course, I was unable to recognize what I had witnessed until years later. I vividly remember traveling hours in the car to attend the services of our dear family friend. My mother assisting the family with the arrangements, it seemed there was much to do. The pinnacle of the life celebration would come in the form of a gigantic party for all to attend.
Mom and I chose to wear colorful dresses! My frock of choice was an adorable purple twirly skirt! As we dressed… she cried; though she did not appear sad. Through her tears, we laughed and giggled. She told me again and again how Honey would have ADORED my purple skirt. In her kind and loving way, she explained that I would not be attending the service. My special job was to remain back and welcome the guests as they arrived for the party from the church.
After what felt like hours, I skipped from window to window anxiously counting the cars lining up outside of the house. Hundreds of people began to arrive with food and flowers. I was too small to know that funerals are not typically joyous occasions nor do they bring hundreds of guests. I suddenly wondered which car held my mother and brother, Jacob.
Suddenly, I spotted my mother emerging from the crowd. She was gliding up the driveway arm in arm with her best friend, Georgia Rae. They were the epitome of sweet, southern women. Georgia had been my mother’s best friend since birth as their mothers were best friends before them. It was the life of Georgia’s mother, Honey, we were celebrating. Our families were so close that this must have been a horrible day for all of them. They were both crying, but their tears fell on smiling lips. This kind of happiness would only come from the celebration of Honey’s life and the pure Joy of knowing she was with our Savior today. Mom and Georgia both love Jesus. The legacy of women loving Jesus march before them and will continue long after. There was never a time I more wanted to be just like these women. In the face of debilitating grief, they shone like beacons of light.
Mom found me first.
“Hi, Avery Mae!” she said. “You ready to party?”
“Sure am, mom!” I replied with adoration.
And party we DID! Honey sang in the Sweet Adelines Woman’s chorus. Music followed her even to her grave. Everyone sang while Jacob and I danced through the legs of the guests like mice in a maze.
Throughout the party, I could see my mom scan the room peacefully looking for her dear friend. Georgia would catch her eye from the other side of the party and they would give each other a knowing nod. The matriarchs knew each other so well that words need not be spoken.
Toward the end of the night, the closest of family and friends gathered in a single room. There were more stories and continued laughter as Jacob and I started to fade to sleep. Sitting on the floor at my mother’s feet and my head resting on her knee, I motioned to my mother to lean down.
“Yes, sweetheart” she gently responded.
“You and Aunt Georgia remind me of the pink heart bookends in my room.” I dreamily whispered.
She laughed. Surely she believed I was talking in my sleep. She lovingly responded to amuse me.
“Why do you say that, princess?” She inquired.
“Well, they hold up my books between them just like you and Aunt Georgia hold everyone together in your life”. I continued. “All of these people may well have fallen on their sadness if you both had not been here to hold them up.”
She simply smiled.
Over time, I have learned that their real strength comes from God! Although they still hold their families together like bookends on a shelf; He provides them the strength to do so!
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