Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Celebration of a Beautiful Live, Well Lived

We got home from Tennessee last night.  It was a good trip, despite and also due to, in part, the circumstances: the celebration of my sweet Mam-ma's beautiful life.  We cried, of course, but we also told funny stories (my Mam-ma was a hoot!) and shared memories.  Some of the stories were familiar to me, but others were new and delightful in their novelty.
She died on November 29, and her 92nd birthday would have been tomorrow, December 3.  For the last few years she languished in a nursing home, caught up in various illnesses that held both her mind and body hostage, not knowing who we were but always glad to see us (when she was awake, that is -- she slept much of the time the last two years).  But that is all over, and she knows every one of us again.

She was the sweetest person I have ever know, and I mean that sincerely.  I never saw her angry, and I never heard her say anything harsh or critical about anyone or anything.  Her smile was almost a permanent expression.  And she had the best sense of humor!  The most she ever said to us kids when we misbehaved was, "Now, Ellen," (fill in the name with that of whoever was acting ugly) to remind us that we knew better.  Infinitely patient, she treated each of her loved ones the same -- a gigantic feat -- and, as a consequence, we all felt special and beloved.  Moreover, she didn't limit her giving to her family; she reached out to friends, neighbors, and the community at large in a way most of us aspire to do, but don't.  She was a true servant, an embodiment of God's grace, mercy, and love, and we know we were blessed to have been part of her family.  If only I could be more like her!

A friend sent me this poem in prose, so to speak, saying that it gave her comfort after her mother passed away.  I felt the same and wanted to share it with you:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky meet and mingle with each other. Then someone at my side exclaims, "There, she's gone!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in hull and mast and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She's gone," there are other eyes watching for her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "There, she comes!"

And that is dying.

-- Henry Van Dyke, circa 1925
So  on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, we who are still here praised God for Edna Shadden Davis and rejoiced at the joyful reunion we knew had taken place when she arrived home.  Now she will be watching for each of us in the years to come.

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