The Surprise of Grace
Matt was my husband’s cousin and his death was sudden, unexpected, and by many professional accounts shouldn’t have happened. It was a case of being sent home from the hospital too soon, a case of being woefully unprepared for the side effects of brain surgery.
A few days after the death when I was asked by his wife to officiate at the memorial service, I wanted to say no. It had only been a couple of weeks since I had done my mother-in-law’s funeral. I was in a difficult situation at work. I was tired. I was sad. And I was in shock that this man, who was more like a son to my husband and a brother to me, was dead. Eventually however, I said yes and afterwards, when the service was over, I felt as if I had made a terrible mistake. I felt as if I should not have agreed to preside. I had delivered no healing, no real comfort to this stunned gathering. I had been no source of light in this time of darkness. In truth, I was sorely disappointed with what I had done.
Driving to the hotel after the service, feeling as if I had failed miserably, as a clergy person, as a family member, as a wife, my sense of loss now compounded by my failures, I did not have much to say to my bereaved beloved as we wound our way around the mountains of West Virginia.
When we arrived at our destination I decided to join my husband in the lobby to check in. I stood beside him at the front counter and immediately glanced around the cheerful clerk, noticing a child’s picture, framed and hanging on the wall behind her.
“Oh, that’s from one of the children who visited us with his school class,” she reported when she saw where I was looking. “It’s quite special to us.” And she turned back to continue her work of taking care of our reservation.
Some would say it was nothing, a coincidence at most. For anyone who stood at that hotel counter the picture was simply a primitive piece of a child’s art celebrated by some sentimental manager. But for me, on that night of feeling so low about myself, that night of feeling broken and lost and in desperate need of something beyond myself, were the words, the sign of redemption and mercy I needed. In a bubble by a little boy standing with a smile was written the words, “Thank you! Love, Matt.”
Sometimes we don’t get the answers to prayers we pray. Sometimes we don’t have the right words. Sometimes we limp along with no clear idea of what we’re doing. But once in a while when our hearts are broken, when we are so lost we have no idea how we can ever be found, grace shows up, and at least for a moment we know, we are never, not ever, alone.
You are the light of the world!