We have gathered from near and far to pay final tribute to a much loved aunt. Ours is a family where the generations glide over one another in such a way that you cannot tell where one begins and another ends. It is hard to explain to strangers, but it feels very right to us. Once again the warp and woof of life have become integrated in such a way as to illuminate the tapestry of family in the midst of shared grief and celebration.
Out of necessity, weddings and funerals have become the means for our extended family to gather. They serve to draw us close to one another. I rejoice to find that laughter and tears once again flow seamlessly in the sparkling gem of the house at 403 Park Avenue that my aunt lovingly restored and brought back to life. It has been the family home for more than seventy years, where it now faithfully bears witness to the passing of the generations.
Earlier, at the visitation I had taken my place in the receiving line alongside my eldest aunt. I, who left home for college at 18 with a restless searching heart, have come home to roost in this place of honor at my aunt’s side. I am the oldest of three sisters. We stand in a row: Kathy, Cindy, Julie. Our names comprise a litany of remembrance in a small town that knows our history as well as we know it ourselves. In our lives away from this place we are wives, mothers, educators, volunteers, denizens of our communities and more.
But today we are David’s daughters. We shake hands, hug necks, and repeat the words over and over again. I am known once again by my maiden name. We hear stories. At one point I turn to my sisters and say, “I am past middle age and I have never really thought of myself as simply David’s daughter. I have never said these words so many times before today.” My baby sister who was four when our father died marvels that she can never ever remember introducing herself this way. I start to cry. There is something treasured about being known as David’s daughter.
I look at the faces of my sisters and the soul hole gapes open for a second. Suddenly, I am bereft once again. This older woman is still a fatherless daughter even now. I wait for the old wave of pain. It eludes me and suddenly something deep inside shifts. The carapace over my soul softens. The joy rises up unbidden in my heart and breaks forth over the wall of the dam to flood my soul. I can scarcely breathe. All is still inside of me, waiting.
I stretch forth my hand to take the hand of the elderly man standing in the line before me. I look him in the eye and say again, “I am David’s eldest daughter.” His eyes twinkle as they meet mine. “I know,” he whispers. “I see the Scofield in your face.”
I lie abed this morning in my Momma’s house and replay the hours of yesterday. I recall the words that were spoken at the funeral by those that I love. I smile at some of the things I learned about my aunt. I ponder the beautiful words of an old hymn, unfamiliar to me.
I talk quietly to God. I marvel that as I whisper aloud the words, “David’s daughter,” the familiar ache is no longer patently obvious. Could it be that the death and the hole and the scar that have shaped my life are finally healed? Could it truly be? Until the tears slide down my face to wet the pillow, I am completely unaware that I am weeping.
God works in mysterious ways. I have traveled 400 miles to bury a loved one only to find that my soul has taken the longed-for journey of a lifetime. I look into the place of familiar sorrow and at long last find only a glorious peace rising up to meet me. The elongated shadow of the valley of death is no longer falling over me, holding me in its thrall.
I question myself once more, “Could this be real?”
The scripture immediately leaps to mind: “He whom the Son has set free is free indeed.” Suddenly I am walking, no, running in this newfound freedom.
Why today? Why now?
I close the door to my skeptical self and choose rest. I whisper, “Baruch Hashem Adonai.” There are no more words. The most profound sense of awe and gratitude holds me fast.
I know it to be the kiss of God's grace.
|My father, David|