I feel the need to share a story from a funeral and memorial service I attended this afternoon. This is not to cast a spirit of depression or wallow in sadness in any way. Quite the contrary. Keep reading.
It was during the service that I got to see an act of love first hand. It was something so simple and so moving that it just can’t help but be shared.
During the service I sat there and marveled at every story, every tribute, and every chuckle as this woman’s life and personality was revealed. She really did have a pioneer spirit and a personality that touched others, as evidenced by the full house. It was a nice service. But this story is not about her.
We sat behind the sister and her husband and I watched such a loving action take place that it made my heart ache. No one else probably noticed this, but I did, and it left an impression.
The couple sitting in the row in front of us had two young kids sitting between them, bookended by the two adults dressed in black. The parental sandwich–typical church fashion and protocol to keep four-year-old children behaving nicely in public. Not too far into the service I watched as the husband looked over at his silently grieving wife, gently pick up and move first the little boy and then the little girl over to the other side of him so he could remove the distance between his wife and scoot over and sit next to her. He then put a gentle yet firm arm around her shoulder and I watched as she melted in to that one gesture. The tears and heartache throbbed inside me.
Oh how I wish we all had that. To have a real man who leans in to the pain. Who chooses to lean in when it hurts and will lovingly remove obstacles to be by our side when we need him. Someone not afraid of the tears of a broken heart. I smiled as I looked down and noticed that there wasn’t just a tissue ready, but a whole Kleenex box he’d put underneath her seat, already surrounded by about 15 crumpled Kleenexes. He took yet another mangled and snotty one from her hand and replaced it with a fresh one from the box below, tossing the used one into the pile beneath the seat.
So simple and yet so profound, I was moved by that one interaction I was privileged to witness. It was beautiful. If we could all have such a shoulder to remove the distance and come to our aid and lean against. Someone who in our worst moments will anticipate the need and be ready for the tough stuff, removing the junk we’ve made and replace it with something new.
I saw God’s love in action today.
Not just once. The story continues and my next take-your-breath-away moment was the interaction between the brother and sister. This one was a bit more public. Later in the service it was the sister’s turn to speak. She wasn’t telling stories, that was left up to others before her. Her only role was to go up and read a few short verses. She got about 3/4 of the way through and just couldn’t go on.
She just couldn’t. She stood up there by the mic, her face in her hands desperately trying to hide the sobs and pull it together as sighs of sympathy reverberated through the auditorium by the congregation in front of her. I don’t know this woman and have never met her, but it wasn’t hard to see that her pain was real and she was struggling.
In the moment of understandable awkwardness the brother sitting in the front row calmly stood up and walked up on stage towards his sister. He got to her, turned towards the audience and just stood by her. Silent in his suit. He didn’t take her notes, he didn’t read it for her, he just stood there beside her as her silent buffer. This was enough to give her the strength to take a breath and say, “I’m sorry, I’m starting over. This is important and I want to start over.” And she did.
I don’t know this family, these siblings from New York. I truly am sorry for their loss. But this afternoon’s moments of uninhibited beauty and strength from the actions and reactions left an impression. This was an example that spoke to me.
After being a silent observer to all this, my prayer is…Lord, when it’s my turn and I need this kind of love, strength and kindness, I pray it will be there. And when I am by someone who is having their moment, allow me to recognize it and be able to lean in when needed with just the right touch and encouragement. Don’t let me miss it.
I am honored to have witnessed this display and example of love. May we all show it to others when needed.
Ashlee Bratton — author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.
Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.
Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.