Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Keep Your Fork"

Received this today from my friend Patty.

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The pastor didn't know quite what to say. "Your fork?" He asked gently.

The young woman nodded, then explained.

My grandmother once said to me, "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming ... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie, Something wonderful, with substance!

"So, when people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand, I want them to wonder, 'What's with the fork?' And when they ask, I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ... the best is yet to come.'"
The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did, better than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he'd had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork, and
told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it, either. He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.

Show your friends how much you care. Remember to always be there for them, even when you need them more. For you never know when it may be their time to "Keep your fork."Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share. Being friends with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Splinters of Memory (on Piles of Human Frailty)

I was coming out of church last week when I saw her: A former housemate who had exited my life suddenly, gracelessly, and on very bad terms. Her official reason for wanting to break the lease was the "ancient" farmhouse plumbing, which was a little too rustic to suit her. In actuality, it was my "provential" attitude that sent her over the edge. She and our other housemate (whose name did not appear on the lease) ganged up to persuade me to bend on the "no opposite-sex overnight house guest" policy; when I refused, they walked. I was grateful when the farmer who rented the place to us (who never did like my housemate) agreed to lower the rent to something within my budget, just so I would remain the sole tenant for the duration of my lease.

Eight years passed. Last week, when our eyes met in the narthex, neither of us knew what to say -- indeed, it took me several minutes even to place her. Judging from her hunted expression, it took her several seconds less. "You!" we blurted together. Each of us had a child in tow, so we smiled at each other weakly and kept walking. She was great with child ... married, presumably. That's good. Each of us had moved on and were in different places. Maybe we could just forget about the past, and start fresh.

The following week, I saw her again and raised a hand to wave. She ducked her head and ran out the door. I followed a few steps behind, and saw her get into a van with a heavy-set woman behind the wheel ... Then she gestured at me, and the two of them began to laugh heartily.

At me? Really? I see ...

You know, I can understand it in some respects. At that time I was absolutely doing the right thing by insisting on maintaining the "no overnight guest" policy. It was for my good as well as their own. They were young, and they were engaging in behavior that (if you were to ask them now, and they were being honest with themselves) they would probably tell you that they regret ... but that they engaged in for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with the reasons God originally designed sex.

And here's the thing: If I'd invested more in the relationship, I might have been able to help them to avoid some of those choices. This is true in parenting (whether biological or spiritual) and it is true in all kinds of other relationships. We can "mandate" -- but it's rarely effective. Or we can "mentor" -- something that takes time, and comes from a place of relationship. By dictating, all I earned was their ridicule. I treated them like children ... so they acted accordingly. A good lesson to remember for the future, right?

Happy Easter!