On Wednesday last week, I called my mom to let her know I was running a tiny bit late. I instantly knew by her pause that something had happened. She forced words through a tight throat of stifled sobs, “Lucia didn’t wake up this morning.”
Sweet Lucia. One of my parents’ lifelong and dearest friends. The mother of one of my lifelong and dearest friends. In fact, our families crossed on three of each other’s four children. I never remember a time without the Waggoners in my life.
“She didn’t wake up,” my mom choked again. This time the dam holding back tears broke. She released a flood of sobs, deep heartbroken, already missing her friend, sobs. Then she tried to quickly gather herself. We had a houseful of guests coming in less than an hour to have coffee with the wonderful Jim Daly from Focus on the Family. Bush Library festivities and commitments also begged attention. She needed to find a place to park her sorrow. Some time to let it all sink in.
Which it did.
By Friday, my folks were in Wichita Falls to grieve with family. Some friends and I headed up on Saturday. And here’s where beautiful began to set in.
We walked into Floral Heights United Methodist Church to a sight that would have warmed Lucia’s heart. The flowers that filled the front rivaled any I’ve ever seen. Tasteful, stunning, elegant arrangements left little room for the minister to move.
The church, filled with friends, hummed with thoughtful mumblings and soft cries. People that love this dear family. People who have been loved by them.
The service draped in song gave homage to this lovely woman. Songs that lifted high the faith that allows those left behind to grieve with hope.
A casket, housing the body whose soul has left for a brighter home, respectfully led the way for her dear family to walk by her one last time. Her husband, best friend, love of her life for 50+ years stood tall, buttressed by their wonderful children. Children that were groomed to work hard, to respect those around them and to recognize/embrace the beauty surrounding them every day.
A home, not just a house, but a home whose doors were open after the funeral for all to come and to be served a delightful meal. Lucia’s kitchen was not only filled with food, lovingly provided by friends, but with the “crew” that seamlessly steps in to fill every gap and prepare a table/veritable feast to honor the departed. They descend upon a family and become the hands and feet, knowing that grief and hardship momentarily cripple.
The crew knew paper plates would never pass muster with Lucia. No – the real stuff graced the table, was gathered when guests were done, was hand-washed, then filled again for more guests. The staggering amount of work these women did because they loved their friend and wanted to serve in a way that honored her blew me away. The selflessness and properness of it all is often lost by the wayside in society today.
I wondered as I watched… do my kids get to see this? Do I let them see grief? Experience hardship? Not just their own inevitable bumps, but the suffering of others? Do I train them to embrace/to consider what’s important in other people’s lives? China over paper? Because one must know someone well to able to remember what might seem to be incidental. Do I equip them to be the “crew”? Do I open their eyes to the beauty that, in a crazy way, can even surround sorrow?
Lucia appreciated beauty. And I loved that about her.
I’m grateful that even in her passing from this life to the next, she – in the sweetest, most non-judgmental way – offered me a reminder. She reminded me that paper plates and napkins are fine, but the real stuff is better. It will not only slow me down a bit, but it just might do what she always did for me … make the guest feel special. Even when the guests are gathering to grieve. Even when the guests are family, sitting down for a not-so-regular dinner.
Thanks for walking the road with me.