As a child, I read fantasy voraciously. Whenever I thought about being a writer at that time, I always assumed I would write fantasy. But now that I am adult, facing a white page...that's just not what I seem to want to write. It all turns out silly, like a pathetic rehashing of The Hobbit. Anyway, I do like writing autobiographical things...and this is based on something that happened to me a few years ago.
An older woman came by our pew before church service started today. She was someone I had seen around the church and had exchanged smiles and pleasantries with, but had never actually talked to, and I had no idea who she was.
She sat next to me, but as she sat down, she was really looking at Anthony while she said, “This will only take a moment. I wanted to talk to you.”
We smiled at her, and I moved my purse and jacket out of way. She was short and slender, with steely, waved hair, a black dress, and a beautiful set of pearls. I thought she looked elegant. She smiled brightly through the smooth, soft wrinkles on her face. She smelled like lilacs, and she took my hand. As she spoke, her dignified voice shook slightly.
“You know Mark was my husband,” she said mainly to Anthony, but also in my direction. “He and I were married for almost 58 years. I don’t know your name, but I was thinking about you last night. I remembered you were the one with the pretty wife. Mark and I sat behind you in church a few times.”
“I am Mary. You have heard about my husband, haven’t you?”
“Yes, we’ve been praying for him and we heard he had passed away.”
“Thank you for your prayers. Last night, I was thinking about a beautiful suede jacket that Mark had really wanted. He bought it, but he never had an opportunity to wear it. The Lord put the image of your face into my head, Anthony. I knew you were small, just like my husband. I want you to have the jacket. It has never been worn, and I just know The Lord put you into my head for a reason.”
She was sitting very close to me and I felt a desire to reassure her that we would take the jacket, that we appreciated her thinking of us. I had no words for her, so I smiled at her as much as I could, and she took my hand.
“I would be honored to have his jacket,” Anthony replied.
“I think it’s amazing that The Lord can work through even a jacket,” Mary continued gently, “don’t you? I mean, we don’t understand the way He works, but I just couldn’t get you out of my head. I have been going through Mark’s things since the funeral, and this morning, I took the jacket out of his closet and I hugged it to myself, and I caressed it one last time and put it in the car. It’s in there right now.” Mary absentmindedly twisted the wedding band on her finger.
“Well thank you so much,” said Anthony.
“Are you two staying for Sunday School?”
“Yes,” I replied, “We are.”
“Good, I will meet you after the service.”
After our hour of worship and a sermon, we walked out of the service with Mary.
“We have been reading all the e-mails about Mark’s condition,” said Anthony.
“We were very sorry to hear that he had passed away,” I said quietly.
“Yes,” replied Mary, “He had dementia, and he had had it for a while, but he was still so strong that it was hard to find a nursing home who would take him. We had finally gotten him moved to a home right here in the Kern Valley just a few weeks ago. He got weak very suddenly, and his death happened very fast.”
What is there to say when you are talking to a woman whose husband died a week ago, and is giving you a gift? I could think of nothing, so I just smiled gently, and we both nodded sympathetically. We arrived at her car, and she handed Anthony a white bag with the jacket inside.
“It’s never been worn. You don’t have to look at it,” she said, “But take it, and if you can’t use it, pass it along to someone who can. I just know The Lord wanted you to have Mark’s jacket.”
“I am very honored,” said my husband.
“I’d like to get to know you two better, in the future,” Mary continued. “Mark and I were married for 58 years, and I hope that you two get to be married for at least that long.”
We nodded again, and I hoped that my smile didn’t push out the tears that were welling in my eyes. Mary seemed composed and cheerful. I marveled at her graciousness and her ability to think of others and to think of The Lord’s will so close to a time of bereavement.
We all said goodbye. She smiled, and I hugged her. We walked to our Sunday school class and I took my husband’s arm and pulled him close to my side.
Anthony pulled the jacket out of the bag. It was a beautiful jacket, and when he tried it on, we found that it did fit him perfectly.