I received the news on a Friday; a colleague of mine had died. I hadn’t seen her in some years, but her infectious laugh and smile never left me. I realized in the same moment that I felt myself gasp for air, that sometimes it is not what someone has said that makes a lasting impression on us, but it is more so who they are. It is in the simplicity of it. And for me, it was the memory of that infectious laugh that brought me to tears.
I didn’t feel guilty that I hadn’t seen her in awhile. Such is life as we drift away, and seasons lead to other seasons. I knew she had made a lasting impression on me simply with that vivacious way about her, and I knew nothing of her personal life.
The funeral drew so many of us together that had not been together for some years. I looked around the church and half smiled at some familiar faces. It was odd that it was her smile that I loved so much, but it was so hard for me to have my own today.
In a span of less than one year, her children lost their father and mother. I could see them seated in the front pew, looking way more strong than I ever could be. I looked all around the church, the stained glass, the pipe organ. The soloist began to sing 10,000 reasons, and I began to cry.
In an instant I was down on my knees, looking for answers, for comfort from the God I love. I wasn’t angry that he had taken her, I barely knew her, and my sudden sadness made me question why I was so upset. I realized in the midst of being on that kneeler that people affect us in different ways, and smiles can change us, leave their mark on us even when we don’t know the person well. I realized that I had the gift of empathy which makes me feel far beyond what most people do, things affect me deeper. I wept for her children, for her parents who now would have to bury another daughter of theirs, and for the time that had gone by that I hadn’t seen all my friends from that time in my life. As my heart was aching and my eyes were weeping, I could feel the Lord’s great comfort and His presence. My breathing became steady, and I prayed to God to comfort the family, especially her beautiful children who had lost both of their parents.
But deep into the mass, another thought came to me, her voice was missing. There was a beautiful homily and her children read thoughts straight from their heart, but I never heard from her, although I felt her presence there in that mass so very strongly.
I stayed quiet, pensive, prayerful, deep in thought. There was so much sadness. I tried to find something to center my thoughts on and I did, I returned to her smile. And I thought, I am going to write a letter and leave it. My letter will tell people who I was and what was important to me in my own words. I want it read at the mass so everyone there can hear my voice, and take comfort in that.
My husband and I left the mass and sat for a cup of coffee. I was still thinking about missing her in that mass, I was still thinking about what I would put in my letter. I was planning on writing it later that day. I was planning on revising it as I corrected the things in my life that needed it.
My husband looked up from his coffee.
“Yes beautiful, ” I said through some stained mascara on my face.
“You know what was missing though? Her voice. Before I go, I want to write a letter that someone can read at my funeral.”
I gasped. I couldn’t believe the Holy Spirit had given us the same message. I told him about how I had the same thought and how I would be working on my letter right away. He told me he was going to work on his too. We vowed not to read each other’s unless it was time.
I still missed her. I went on the rest of the day thinking about her, wondering how people would remember me and wondering what I would write in my letter. I thought of how happy she must be to be with Jesus in the heavenly kingdom. And I thought how blessed I was that I have the hope of knowing that I will see her again.