New neighbors just moved in behind us this weekend, and during a slow drive-by, I spied small children’s toys. So I
hurriedly 4 days later went home to make a dish to drop off. This afternoon I repeatedly grazed through my cookbooks to find a recipe. A casserole? Well, they’d been there for 3 days which is out of my unofficial timeframe for main courses. Cookies? But then you end up eating way more than needed. Then I dug out the trusty JSUMC cookbook.
As I whipped up the batter, I reflected on the woman who offered the recipe. She was the mother of 3 very special students. The family was probably the first to drop by my office in my inaugural week. She donated countless dishes (probably at least one coffee cake) and supplies and hours to the church and the youth. I couldn’t have used a recipe from a more “neighborly” woman.
Until she left.
I tend to take on the states of being for the people for whom I care deeply. You know, the “laugh with those who laugh and mourn with those who mourn.” So I hurt when they were hurting.
But tonight I allowed myself to remember her for the wonderful, thoughtful ways she cared. The prayers she uttered and the songs she sang. The cards she made by hand. Her fierce loyalty.
I realized that a single decision she made a few years ago altered her relationships with countless people. But it didn’t delete, or even change, the numerous chapters of her life that preceded it.
While still giving her family the space to wrestle and reconcile their situation, I realized it’s not my situation. Therefore, I’m given the freedom to define her by one decision or by a lifetime of meaningful gestures. Opting to leave will remain one of her cornerstone life events; it’s not the same as “coffee or tea” or which church to join. But to summarize a person’s life based upon the parts and not the whole just doesn’t fit. It somehow eliminates room for change, or hope and the space to rectify wrongs.
It ends the story too soon.
So while I blended the butter with the flour, I balanced a knowledge that things would never return to “as they were” with an appreciation of what they were. And for the first time in a long while, I allowed a sense of gratitude for her place in my life. And perhaps wished her the grace of good things in the future. After all, she’d set an example for me in raising children and in serving others. And she made a mean coffeecake.