October 23, 2017
Last week we were invited to the birthday party of a frail and feisty woman in our church who’s on hospice care. Her family had come in from around the country to laugh, cook, tell stories, and revisit the memories that had brought them to that day.
They outdid themselves in organizing a repast that featured six kinds of meat, numerous side dishes, birthday cake and two varieties of cheesecake. One of the great truths of life is that there is nothing half as good as good Southern cooking.
Midway through the food and festivities, I asked Steve to take a picture of Frances and me. He got about half a dozen shots and in every one of them, Miss Frances was giving him the what for. The two of them are always kidding each other and trading friendly jabs; you can tell in this photo that she is letting another one fly. Frances is one fun and spunky lady.
Between the food and the people and the laughter, between all the grands and the great-grands, there was one moment that stood out from the rest, the moment when we all assembled in the dining room to sing Happy Birthday. The gathered voices all blended together beautifully up until one particular place in the song when the musical unity disintegrated into what can only be called a glorious cacophony.
It happened when we arrived at the words, “Happy birthday, dear __________ .” For the briefest second, the blank space hung in the air until the sudden influx of words, “Mom. Grandma, Miss Frances,” all rushed in to fill it up.
Tears came to my eyes as I realized how beautifully each of those words represented a unique meaning, a meaning made personal by the relationship each person had with that grand lady in the seat of honor.
The various names we sang for the one we loved filled up not only that specific moment but also all the moments to come when Frances will no longer be there to listen.
I was so grateful to be a part of those moments.
I was grateful for the chaos and the conversation, grateful for the cake, for the laughter and the banter–especially between Steve and Miss Frances. I was grateful for the exuberant children and the smiling adults. I was grateful for the chance to meet new people and to be stitched, however briefly, into the memories of that dear family.
But mostly I was thankful for Miss Frances and the glorious cacophony that served as a serenade for the steps at the end of her journey. She will leave this life knowing she was cherished by so many. She will leave this life with the voices of those she holds dear still ringing in her ears.
She will leave this life in the company of the glorious cacophony of love.
What about you? Is there an elderly person in your life who is an extra special addition to your life?
What is it about them that you especially love?
Thrift stores, fuzzy socks
and conversing with my Yorkie
are all on the list of things I love.