We sang “Amazing Grace” as sunlight streamed through arched church windows. Her grandchildren gave tribute to a woman who had lived her four score years with humility and quiet grace. She had not only been my Sunday School teacher, but as grandmother to a dear childhood friend, I had also spent countless hours in her home. Her strength had left her only recently, and she had written words to her family, knowing her days were coming to an end. She admonished those left behind to remember Jesus, that to live for Him was the only way. It was a funeral that truly was a sweet celebration, honoring a gentle and quiet spirit who knew that this life wasn’t the end.
Less than twenty-four hours later I was walking through an airport terminal teeming with people, teeming with life. Everything, everyone, was moving. I shared an elevator with a Russian family, toting designer luggage and headed to Tennessee. I listened to a tiny Asian woman in a sequined scarf talk into a cell phone about pricelines and assets and expenditures as she paced at a luggage carousel. A new dad awkwardly jostled a tiny babe, bags piled high beside them, mama hovering. There were so many stories here.
Everyone had a destination, a direction, an itinerary…varied ages, races, languages, costumes, yet all shared in the hustle, all were swept up in the coming and going. I wondered if this constant stream of movement might be a fairly clear portrait of our culture. We come and go and hustle from concourse to concourse, with even the words “final destination” meaning nothing because beyond the jetway are the stacked cars in parking garages, then freeways, and on the mad racing goes. How often do we stop to remember where we are going? Why are we shoving, weeping, running, moving in this tide? I felt swept up in the whirl just watching and had to close my eyes to even picture the events of the day before, that quiet country church, the spilling sunshine, the memory of a gentle soul whose death was such a keen reminder that our days are finite…and that the suitcases are, eventually, left behind.
And then, the concourse monitor flashed the news I had been waiting for. The plane bearing my dear friends had arrived. They had been in Ethiopia, meeting their sons. It seemed an eternity before they finally appeared at the end of that hallway. They don’t know when they will be buying their return tickets to Africa, as they wait on two governments to shuffle papers. But while they wait, they will prepare for those boys… There will be child-proofing of the house; there are high chairs and tiny shoes to buy. Their days will be full in this waiting for the next leg of their journey.
And as I wait with them, my heart, too, captured by their sons, that quiet funeral and crowded airport serve as reminders to me. There will be an end to this scrambling journeying. There will be quiet waits in the middle of chaos, but there will be an end. I pray that I am able to live well, that these passport stamps give Him glory, just as the sink full of dishes and routine of my days can point to Him as well. I pray that when that memorial service is mine, that someone in the pew will whisper to her daughter as I did to mine, “She had a gentle and quiet spirit, and she loved Jesus.”