“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
To a tiny town, snug within the Bible belt, I drove to meet my friend beneath a funeral tent. Her younger sister, who had been sick since we were little, had gone home to heaven. When I reached the town, raindrops greeted me, thumping upon my window with such gusto I could barely see. The storm lasted only minutes, and I soon needed to slip my sunglasses over my eyes again.
I raced down country roads, attempting to make it to the service on time. One wrong turn thwarted my plans, and I was dreadfully late pulling up to the tucked-away cemetery, deep in the Texas countryside. From my car I spotted the loving huddle beneath the tent, and I began the trek across the field to join them.
Grasshoppers–some yellow, some brown–jumped all around me. With every step, I sent at least four of them springing over the ground. I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her amazing description of the cloud of grasshoppers that ate everything in sight in On the Banks of Plum Creek. I had never seen so many at once.
My ankles itched, and I wondered how many chiggers were climbing my legs as I rushed toward the tent to find my friend. Had my belated arrival made a painfully hard day for her and her parents even worse? But they greeted me with tender hugs and gratitude.
Storm clouds began to gather overhead once more, so we left the elegant white casket with the beautiful princess sleeping inside, and we found shelter in our cars. I followed my friend to her grandmother’s house.
I had been to that house as a girl. Her grandmother had prepared Sunday dinner for my friend and her parents, her aunts and uncles, and me. (I can still remember the condensation dripping off the amber water glasses at the table.) Now, that sweet grandmother was dying of cancer.
Although I didn’t recognize the house from the front, I knew it at once upon nearing the backdoor. There was the porch where my friend and I had swung together, gazing out at the fields and dreaming of our futures.
The house held the scent that only a grandmother’s house can harbor. The dining room table looked just as I had left it so long ago, minus the food. Old baby pictures graced the walls, but I didn’t know who those babies were. Other people, some of whom I did not know, entered the house. Suddenly, I was just an observer. I saw a family, much like mine, but not my own.
I peeked into Grandmother’s bedroom. It was full of people smiling and talking. One of Grandmother’s daughters, now a grandma herself, climbed into bed beside her, as if she were four-years-old again, wanting to cuddle with Mama. I blinked back tears and walked back out to the porch.
Thinking of that grandmother surrounded by all that family at the end of her life, I stood on the porch where she surely stood when she was my age, watching her four little ones play. I could almost taste, again, the beauty of that Sunday lunch her hands had prepared.
I get so distracted, I thought. All I wanted to do at that moment was to serve dinner after well-planned dinner to my own family. Preparing the daily bread–“Is there much better use of your time than that?” the wind blowing off the fields seemed to whisper.
Briefly, I wished I could have many more children. That family! That big, loving family surrounding my friend and her parents on that sad, sad day . . . cuddling around beloved Grandmother during her last days.
Today, I asked my eight-year-old what his favorite dinner I make is. Then, I made it purposefully, without feeling stressed and tired (like I often do while cooking). It was ready when my husband walked in the door. I wonder if, while they ate, my family felt a hint of the safety, the warmth, the love I felt in Grandmother’s home. I pray that they did.
Thank you for the gift of family and for the days you have given me to love them. Please help me to serve them with a joyful heart, that I might reflect Your light. Amen