The phone rang early Sunday morning as I was scrambling to get ready for church. Hesitating to answer it, I glanced at the clock. I had a few minutes to spare so I picked it up. "Hello."
Surprise washed over me when I heard an old friend ask, “Did you hear about Beth?”
My stomach flipped; I swallowed hard. “No, what happened?”
“Her name was in the obituaries. She died Thursday night. I’m not sure why, though she’d received a DWI a while back. Do you want me to read the article to you?”
I mumbled assent. I heard the rifling of paper. Suddenly, waves of grief washed over me and I heaved with sobs. My friend came back and recited the details. Before she hung up, she said, “Sorry about calling, but I didn’t want you to be blindsided at Church.”
“Thank you. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. It would’ve been devastating to hear it in the middle of church.”
After we hung up, I debated about going to church. Mostly I wanted to crawl into bed and hide from reality. I splashed my face with cold water and looked in the mirror. There’d be no time to shower. I ran a brush through my greasy hair. My eyes were red and puffy. My heart hurt and I looked a fright. What would people in church say when they saw me all disheveled?
God’s voice came through my jumbled thoughts. Go, no one should care what you look like. Go and know I will be there with you.
I grabbed my things, jumped in the car and cried most of the way. As I sat in my regular pew, the ladies behind me noticed my tears and patted my shoulder.
During the time to greet one another in peace, several people came up and hugged me. Their love and strength enveloped me. I realized even though I looked a mess, this was exactly where I needed to be.
During the sermon about love, God nudged me to stop at my friend’s old house and offer my condolences to her parents. I quickly rebelled. It would be too painful to visit the house where I spent so much time during my high school years. Not to mention, I didn’t know how she died; what if it had been connected to drugs, alcohol, or even worse -- suicide?
Again, I heard God, Just go.
After church, I spoke to some ladies, explaining my dilemma. All encouraged me to go. “But I don’t have anything to bring them.”
They sensed my reluctance. One woman suggested that I could phone them instead. Another advised me to buy some cupcakes to give them.
After listening to them, I rationalized that I would go home first and cook something. Once more, I heard God’s voice. You’re procrastinating. They don’t need another casserole. You heard the sermon. They need your love.
I drove to my friend’s childhood home, praying the whole way. As I turned into the driveway, I felt Jesus next to me.
Beth‘s parents answered the door and wrapped their arms around me. I whispered my apologies and we stood there holding one another up as we sobbed. I could feel Jesus supporting us as I prayed.
I learned Beth had died from pneumonia. The illness attacked her body and in mere days her liver and kidneys shut down. She’d been in a coma for two weeks.
As I climbed back in my car, I recalled how I’d prayed for Beth just days before, on her birthday. It had been years since I‘d remembered her birthday. But this year, God had placed her on my heart. I meant to call her but time got away from me. I acknowledged that part of my grief was actually guilt. I trembled when I realized she was comatose on that day. I wasn’t meant to save her but to pray for her.
As I drove home, I chatted with God. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the courage to do your bidding. Though my hands were empty, my heart was full. I smiled as I realized that love had held us together, had made us strong. Cupcakes wouldn’t have been able to support us in our grief; they would have turned to mush under the weight. However love -- love made us one in Christ.
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