At a recent funeral, there were some events that made me think deeply about the value of a human life. The woman who had passed away was a mother of several grown children. This lady was still fairly young - far too young to pass away.
But her life had been a hard one. She had married in her late teens, and her marriage was rocky almost from the beginning. Her children weren’t very old when she divorced, and she found herself in the unenviable position of having to be both the provider for her young family, and the sole parent to her children.
Her education was limited, so the jobs she was able to find were barely enough to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Though her children had the necessities of life, there was little left over for new clothes or other things that many of their friends took for granted. Instead of gratitude for what their mother did, it created, in her children, a spirit of resentment, a spirit that too often came out in harsh words towards her.
Further, as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t always be there for them when they arrived home from school. The necessity of providing a living precluded this luxury. She found her children getting into more and more trouble with, not only the law, but with laws of nature that ushered them far too quickly to the threshold of adulthood before they were ready. Her sons ended up in juvenile court, and her daughters became teenage mothers.
Through all of the problems that stemmed from her children’s poor choices, she never quit loving them and never gave up on them. She always tried to help them when they needed it, no matter what the storm was that they had brought upon themselves. And more than once she was there to help dry their tears while she stood alone, having no one with whom she could share her own.
Many times her children would unleash a barrage of accusations against their mother, claiming that all of their problems were her fault. They said many cold and cruel things to her - words calculated to bring the deepest pain possible. They always felt there would be time later to make amends and express their love to her.
But in an instant, she was gone. God decided her tired heart had endured enough, and he took her away from her trials and her sorrows. In her short lifetime she had endured a millennia of heartache and disappointment, and He decided it was enough. Her children were then left to view what treasures were left from her life.
It is always an interesting and heart wrenching experience to look into the deepest recesses of another person’s life, after they are gone, and see what they truly cherished. It is almost as if the true depth of their heart is laid open for others to try to understand for the first time.
Her children didn’t find her closet full of designer gowns and fashionable jeans, but instead found a very limited wardrobe of worn out clothes - clothes that had been out of style for at least 20 years, and had been purchased many years before that from second hand stores. She had almost never spent money on herself, but had instead used what little she could squeeze out of their small budget to make life better for her children.
They found no jewelry boxes full of diamond rings and pearl necklaces, but cardboard boxes filled with children’s hand drawn pictures, certificates of achievement, and newspaper clippings that were the milestones of their own lives. Any dream she might have had for her own life had been set aside to help them fulfill theirs.
And, in their own hearts, her children found an understanding of what a wonderful mother they had always had, and how lucky they truly had been. But the sad part is, that in many ways, for them it came too late. Too late for them to say, “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you.” Too late to say, “Thank you for loving me despite how I lived my life and how I treated you.” And most of all, too late to simply say, “I love you.”
As I sat in the funeral, I remembered the night of my own father’s passing. Gratefully I was able to be there for him, to help him sit up in bed while my brother fed him his favorite food, a chocolate milkshake. Even more importantly, I was able to tell him one last time that I loved him - something I did all too infrequently. He had nodded and said, “I know”. I was grateful he did know, as I was grateful I knew of his love for me.
As the funeral came to a close, one of this lady’s daughters said something that wrapped up everything this good woman’s children were feeling.
“It’s too bad we had to lose her to realize how great she truly is.”
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com)