Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Growing Tree

The tree towered above us.

It was a dreary and cold Friday.  The look and feel of the day captured the feelings and emotions of those gathered at the cemetery.  We celebrated the life of Byrdia.  We celebrated the presence of God.  We proclaimed hope and trust in the God who walks with us through the darkest pain.  We hoped in the resurrection's promise.

It had been a long journey for the couple, but what journey isn't long and full of all kinds of twists and turns and unexpected encounters.  The husband, Oliver, had not left his wife's side for nearly two years.  Two years ago Alzheimer's began to take over her mind.  Each time I visited with the couple in their home I heard stories of how they met, where their children lived and what they did, and the lessons learned along the way.  We would share communion and tears and prayers.

Each time I asked, "What would you like to pray for today?"

And each time, Oliver said, "I pray for Byrdia to remember.  For her to get better."  Simple, heartfelt and loving words from a husband to his wife of 58 years.

Her memory continued to fade.  The time came for hospice to control her pain and to make her as comfortable as possible.

The night Byrdia died, the hospice nurses came to clean her body and prepare her for burial.  I gathered in the room with the nurses and the daughter.  Holy, sacred time.  Such tenderness in each wipe.  Such awe for the hands and feet of God in these women.

I thought of Oliver's words, "I pray for Byrdia to remember."

I smile.  God remembers.  For I see the women and their compassion, I see the tears of a daughter, and the devotion of a husband, and I know that God remembers.        

At the cemetery, Oliver walks over to me following the committal.  "You see this tree here, this tree that is towering over us, right next to Byrdia's grave?  That tree was here when we first bought this plot years ago, and it was just a little tree, barely to my knees."

The tree towered above us.

Hope blossomed from the cold ground.  Holy ground.  Sacred space.  Hope from a towering tree to guard Byrdia and to remind her family that she is with God.

And at that moment, underneath the towering tree beside Byrdia's grave, once again, I remember Oliver's prayer; "I pray for Byrdia to remember."

I smile.  I feel the presence of the tree and the presence of the lives of the saints who have gone before and who are to come.

I smile and know that God remembers.  

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