Saturday, January 18, 2014


                I stood over the couch and looked out the front window and then around the room.  There was a plastic shelf that had family pictures—some framed and some unframed--scattered on it.  I didn’t recognize all of the faces in the photos but I knew it was various members of their family.  Her parents; her kids; her grandkids.

                She had died on that very couch twelve days before.  Completely unexpectedly.  The last meal she ever cooked still sat on the stove—a baked chicken wrapped in tin foil,a macaroni and cheese casserole, and a pan of dirty rice.  Judging by the huge numbers of servings, she had expected her whole family home for dinner that night.  But instead, here I was, depositing the molding food into trash bags and cleaning out the dishes.  The happy family meal would never happen.
                The kitchen was not particularly clean—but in her defense, she hadn’t expected me to be there.  She hadn’t expected her life on earth to end so suddenly.  And certainly not that day.
                I fished a container of Chlorox wipes out of my trunk. I love Chlorox wipes.  I began to wipe down the cabinets—mostly just for something to do.  I was waiting for her family who was cleaning out the closets.  There didn’t seem to be much else I could do to help.
                It was a sober time.  The family worked quietly and I said little.  I didn’t really know what to say but my brain was busy just thinking.  The brevity of life is never more real than in a moment like that.  In an instant, your life can be over. 
                I remembered just a few days before relaying to a friend and laughing about a ridiculous funeral I saw on TV.  A man dressed in a white suit and a tinsel halo pretended to play the harp.  And when the song was over, he reached down and clicked off the CD player.
                Two people came in dancing to the wedding march and carrying the urns of ashes of the deceased.  They had put clothes on the urns—a veil on the wife’s and a small tuxedo on the husband’s.  And that was just the beginning.  Of course, the dancing urn carriers were also wearing tinsel halos.  I don’t know how anyone in the room kept a straight face.  Honestly.
                But now back to reality.  Nothing funny about this scene.   Nothing fake.  Nothing staged.  A box of instant oatmeal and another of Cheerios sat on the refrigerator.  Otherwise, there was nothing to look at but dirty cabinets and a trash bag full of this lady’s last cooking.
                My thoughts were serious, but not morbid.  It was a reminder that we are just passing through.  We’re pilgrims.  Not royalty here to build our kingdom.  Not pack rats here to fill our nests.  Not super heros here to build our legends. 
Just pilgrims. 
It was a reminder to me to travel light.  Redeem my time by investing it in things that are going to matter.   Give away what I can’t keep to gain what I can’t lose.  Love hard.  Follow hard.  Put my trust in the few things that are going to last forever.
And when my last day comes and when people look around at the pieces I leave behind I want them to be able to look around my empty kitchen and think “it’s okay.  She was just passing through.”

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."  - Psalm 90:12

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