Two words that often go hand in hand but I’ve never really given them much thought other than singing it in a Christmas carol until last week.
I was in Bay Shore, NY with my mom, dad and two sisters attending the funeral of my mother’s youngest brother when the thought struck me and I was able to see the two words mesh together for what I believe was their intended purpose.
We drove up from Richmond to connect with my parents and sister in Maryland before heading to New York. I left work, kids, and holiday parties unattended, packed a bag and got on the road. After all, family is first in my book. My mother was taking this pretty hard. It was her baby brother. He was the youngest of 10 children and she was number 9. They had grown up together and were very close. We have all been anticipating the death of another brother who is suffering from cancer and so this was a surprise. She was emotionally drained from another death the preceding week so we were all very much aware of her fragility and it was our desire to be there with her and for her. We wanted to comfort her, support her and provide whatever we could by way of our physical presence.
It was during this time of closeness (10 hours in a car with 5 people) that the meaning of the words came together. She took great comfort in our being there and joy in our presence as we caught up on each other's lives, reminisced about the past, both the good and the bad, and during the silence - each deep in our own thoughts, allowed the Holy Spirit to have his way with us.
We attended the wake and to my great surprise when they opened the floor for comments my mother was the first to get up there and say something. She said we drew strength from the family and those in attendance. No one would have known earlier her brokenness, her heartache and her desire to just curl up in a ball and wish it all away or better yet to be with her brother.
I was blessed by the words from the crowd as they got up and recalled what my uncle meant in their lives. I saw tears stop flowing and smiles spreading, we had a few moments of deep laughter and there was much joy in the room from the memories that will last us the remainder of our lives.
One of the final speakers was a 10 year old boy who summed up the events of the evening like no other. He realized from all that was said that he was missing out on something great in his life and he was sad. He told us to stop taking people for granted. To embrace them while they are here and to find the time to be around them and learn all that we could from them because when they are gone, they are gone and something great is missed.
Wow, from the mouth of babes. Those words resonated around that room and soaked into our hearts. We applauded this young man for his words and the spirit in which they were delivered.
That young man did not realize that he had not missed out in what my uncle taught us during our lives but that during that moment he just displayed for us something that my uncle will always be remembered for - CHARACTER.
And from that we all felt comfort and joy.