Six years ago, on this day, my father died, living 21 months past my mother, his dear wife/supporter/nurturer/friend. The ensuing family angst and drama sent me into tailspin. I’d lost my parents and hopes for family, left with only squabbley siblings.
When my church offered a grief group three months later, I was all in.
With the group introductions, a woman named Jan, who I’d never know before, said, “I’m not afraid to die.”
I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame.
During the next year I wove my presence into her life tapestry, becoming her crafty hands, to embellish photo memory books for her family members, as directed.
One night I arrived with a funky red feather boa, grabbed impulsively as I headed to her condo. Jan didn’t rise to greet me at the door. She melded to her couch, deeply depressed by grave medical news: the vast tumor had wrapped around her aorta, thus becoming inoperable… with a dash of irony, the red feather boa became a metaphor, a prop to lift her into laughter, the best medicine. Miracle!
On another I had an issue: the oncologist that we shared had admonished me to lose weight…how to achieve it…and then Jan showed me the box of Nutrisystem diet food, a month’s supply, food that she would not be able to eat. I wrote her a check and carted the box to my car, losing the necessary pounds and lowering my cholesterol. Miracle!
On another evening I grabbed my camera – on impulse again – and took photos amongst a group of women gathered in prayer, a group whose leader focused them on Jan’s life/death needs. Her friends who she hadn’t seen in awhile because she was hospitalized. The next morning, I printed the photos and placed them in a be-ribboned portfolio – and shared them with great love…before the oncologist arrived with the final, final word. In this hospital meeting also, an oncology nurse on the floor recognized me. Also a member of the church, she provided increased tender care to our compadre. Miracle!
But the most miraculous God-incidence for me and Jan was reserved for a different day. When I arrived, I learned that she wanted me to craft a thank you banner for the church’s dear Caring Ministries woman – and I had had the same intention. She had the paper, the sparkly markers, the stickers, all supplies. We both had a simple phrase to express: Thank you. We wrote fat letters, to fill in with designed love, that were a foot high. Delicious communion. Joy in the purposeful endeavor, pushing past suffering and impending loss. Miracle!
The sign still hangs high in the woman’s small office, at the ceiling, the closest point to God, wrapping the room in a hug. Jan’s hug from heaven.