Another death of one of our Bread of Life Cafe attenders. This family has come faithfully every Wednesday for years. We only knew them by first names, but I’ll call them Dad, who was rather chunky, Mom, quite tiny and bird-like, and Daughter, built like her dad and always wearing a knit cap.
Dad died in his sleep. The family was in shock. All they knew was that they couldn’t afford a burial, so he was cremated. Our church reached out as soon as they called to tell us. We were so glad they called! So many times our regulars die and we only hear of it later or not at all.
Our church members took food each day for the first week. We found out that Dad was the only family member that drove, so they are somewhat stranded except for living on a bus line. One of our members offered to have a memorial service at our church building and Mom was quite pleased to do so, setting this Saturday, March 25, as the date, even though he died on March 1. That’s the nice thing about cremation and memorial services: no urgency to get things done right away.
Yesterday we had violent storms and pouring rain, but, as planned, Steve and I went to visit Mom in her home to get to know Dad better to prepare for the service in his memory. They live in a modest home on a busy street with no street parking. A car in their driveway kept us from parking there. Steve pulled into the business next door while I huddled under my umbrella to their door and asked for the car to be moved. It was not a visitor but was their car, and they finally found the keys for me to move it forward.
Steve saw the space open up and came around to their driveway. We took the food we’d brought and went inside as Mom and Daughter welcomed us.
My first impression was clutter. Someone evidently collects small stuffed or ceramic bears and cats, and they filled every shelf and ledge. A table-sized decorated Christmas tree was on the shelves beside the television. Two cats’ beds were in the middle of the small living room, but we saw no cats—only the beds and the cat smell which permeated the overheated room.
Steve had told them to be thinking about what they’d like him to say about Dad and any scriptures they would like for him to include. They both said, “The twenty-third Psalm,” but had no other requests. As Steve asked his usual questions, a portrait of the family emerged. No church connections since childhood. Two adult children still living there, neither employed. Dad, 79, had held low-level jobs—messenger between banks, driving instructor, and worked till he was 76. Loved watching sports on television, so March Madness games are hard for them to watch without him.
The irony of his being a driving instructor struck us both. I couldn’t resist commenting. Mom said, “He started teaching our youngest son one time, but then our son decided he didn’t want to learn, so they quit.” Now she thinks he would like to learn, but they can’t afford to hire a driving instructor. Later, upon investigation, I found that professional driving instruction is required in Ohio, so it can’t just be a friend.
Mom and Dad had four children—two at home, oldest son in Tennessee and oldest daughter in Indianapolis. “How many grandchildren do you have?” Steve asked. Mom and Daughter looked at each other, puzzled, and finally decided eight or nine. “And several great-grandchildren,” Mom added. “I told the man at the crematorium that in the obituary he should just put “several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m not sure how many.”
I thought of my own grandchildren and how well I know each of them. I thought of my grandmother, who knew each of her great-grandchildren well, even though they didn’t live nearby and my friend Shirley, who even knows the birthdays of her great-grandchildren. Mom seemed to think nothing of it, but we found it heart-breaking.
We didn’t ask if the out-of-state son and daughter would be coming to the memorial service. I hope they will. The son at home was upstairs and didn’t come down to meet us, so I wonder if he will come. The whole family is a sad, sad situation.
I pray for them—that Mom and Daughter will turn to God with faith and trust and obedience. They are sweet people, and they need God. For the memorial service, one of my friends has prepared a slide show; another has bountiful food coming. We hope that we are showing them what Jesus in action looks like.
“When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:39-40