I watched the hypnotic flash of blue lights in front of us and listened to the monotonous sound of hazard lights clicking on and off. Cars moving slowly in single file through the streets following the police car that led us to the cemetery. Daddy was a pall-bearer, so we rode ahead of the hearse that carried the body of dear Lillian. Cars around slowed, pulled over, stopped. A moment of respect, then they picked up and moved on. Some cars didn’t even stop, either not noticing or not caring. They had a life to live, things to do, places to go. Couldn’t they see the hurt that rode next to them? Or did they not know what they should do with it?
Halfway through our drive to the cemetery, I saw him. A man who didn’t know Lillian. A stranger who saw our funeral procession. He stood next to his car, hand on his heart, a momentary salute to honor the dead. He was old, that man who honored Lillian’s family and friends. His skin was wrinkled with age and dark spots. He wasn’t fashionable or trendy. He wasn’t pretty. But he was beautiful.
It was at that point I completely broke down.
Sometimes life stops. Sometimes it careens to a halt so suddenly and unexpectedly that we question how it will continue. For Lil’s family it was her unexpected death. There are other stoppages… the heartbreak of broken marriages, the car accidents, the pregnancy complications, the disasters, the loneliness of singleness, the pink slip given by a boss, the words spoken in anger or thoughtlessness that ruin friendships. For me, the halt came in the form of cancer.
And life stopped for others when it felt like my world was ending. There are some who pulled over for a moment, offering prayers and encouragement, sending cards, phone calls, making meals, caring for my children when I could not, encouraging my husband when I could not.
There were some in my life that didn’t stop. They were too busy or too afraid. Pain is a scary thing. This I know all too well, and I’ve learned a lot about placing expectations on others.
And there were those who stood by me every day, hand on their hearts, because their hearts were breaking with mine.
There are those who rode in my procession with me to my cemetery. Those who faced death with me, battled with me, wept with me, fought my fight with me. My husband, children, parents, and our families. My close friends and confidants.They entered into a world that is not pretty and helped me see beauty.
To all of you who stopped to pray for us, provide for us and encourage us, I have learned from you and been blessed by you. For those who stood by me every day, for those who rode in my procession, thank you isn’t deep enough to express who and what you are to me.
As the wheels of my life begin to hesitantly turn again, I am humbled, because so many lives stopped for mine.
It hasn’t been pretty, y’all, but, thank God, it has been beautiful.