On Saturdays, I usually work a 12-hour shift. This last Saturday was different. I left the restaurant early, before the afternoon rush had really kicked in, and drove to my church. Still dressed in my server black, I walked in and wandered through the crowd until I found a familiar face. We smiled weakly, greeted one another with quiet hellos. Looking around, I noticed that many of us had come. A small army of women - moms who had come to know one another over hot coffee, conversation, and the shared realization that each and every one of us was a beautiful disaster. Some were already wiping their eyes. Others were engaged in conversation that might, at first glance, appear to be normal.
Together, we walked up the stairs and took our seats in the balcony. I noticed Megan was wearing a suit. I complemented her on it even though Megan looks stunning in everything she wears, even if it's exercise pants and sneakers. We chatted quietly about her husband's new job while people filed into the seats around us and the piano music gently played. She even joked about how her husband brings his business associates out to eat at the restaurant I work at all the time and that she has warned him that he had better make sure to be nice to his server or she will blog about it and the entire church will know. I laughed and promised not to create a scandal.
We looked down at the main floor below us where the casket was draped in a floral arrangement of bright oranges and blue. Nearby, the young woman in the black dress pulled away from a hug, wiped her eyes, and looked up at the balcony. She made eye contact with us, our entire section of her sisters sitting together, and gave us a little wave and as much of a smile as she could muster.
She is so brave.
I did not expect the next hour to be as hard as it was. The friends and family who took the microphone spoke about a man I had only met a few times. I didn't really know him. But I know his wife. She and I would see each other every other week as we gathered with other young moms at our church. When I stood up in front of all those women and told my story, she sought me out and told me how much it resonated with her. Her words reassured me that my story mattered and that God was going to use the broken pieces I held in my heart to build something beautiful.
Her three young children, kids the same age as my boys, fidgeted restlessly next to her as the rest of us sat quietly and listened. My eyes often went to her. I saw her do so many normal things during her husband's funeral - hug her daughter, take a drink of water, scratch an itch on the back of her neck, laugh when the video of her youngest daughter played on the screen.
She is so strong.
The worship leader asked us to stand, but I found I could not sing. The tears had choked out my voice. All I could do was whisper my praise and attach my prayers to the sweet and clear voice of the woman next to me in the cute grey suit.
There in the ground, his body lay, light of the world by darkness slain. Then bursting forth, in glorious day, up from the grave he rose again. And as he stands in victory, sin's curse has lost its grip on me, for I am his and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.
So I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the one who gave it all. I'll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered, all I have is yours.
I've never had to worship through pain. Not that kind of pain, anyway.
But there she was, her pain immeasurable and her grief bearing down on her. She stood and she sang, her hand raised in the air, palm facing up in surrender to the One who gives and takes away while the tears rolled down her face. Every ounce of bravery, every bit of strength - it was all flowing from the vine.
We all descended the steps together after the service and waited among the throng for our turn to love on our girl. When our time came, in an instant we decided that individual comfort wasn't what she needed. She needed all of us. In one motion, we enveloped her in our embrace.
She crumpled under the weight of her grief. But, she did not fall, for her sisters were there to hold her up.
I drove back to the restaurant with a paper plate of pork and mashed potatoes on my lap, wrecked and grateful to be a part of this group of women who know what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ when the need is great.
For Jamie, in honor of Clay. We love you.