Memories assault Amanda as she sits in the familiar pew listening to the hymns that she helped select. She takes a cleansing breath and tries to pray. Still, the memories invade and interrupt. ‘Was it only a year ago?’
Amanda closes her eyes and can almost see her mother, weak and frail to behold, sitting by her side, holding Amanda’s hand and gently stroking it in comfort as she wept. 'I should be comforting her,' was Amanda's thought that day. The church had been filled with people of all ages, and all so well known to her. The myriad members of her huge family had been there that day, from all corners of the country. Old friends and long-time neighbors, nearly the whole population of the tiny town she left behind years ago, had filed by, offering stilted sentiments and halted words of reassurance.
Anyone who thought her mother weak, merely because she was sickly and needed a walker, plainly didn’t know her. It took a very strong woman to bury her own son and still show evidence of her grace and poise.
At the cemetery after Dean’s funeral, Amanda had knelt by her mother’s car door, with intentions of offering her at least some consolation. Instead, she found her head buried in the lap she once sat upon, grieving for her lost brother. “Why, mom?” she had asked. Her mother remained silent, instinctively knowing Amanda didn’t really need or expect an answer. 'Silly question!' Amanda scolded herself.
“I understand that God said it was his time to go, and I do trust Him," she cried. "But I don’t like it! Mom, what now? What do we do? How do we go on?” As Amanda trembled and sobbed, her mother silently stroked her windblown hair, knowing that Amanda realized the answer to those questions too. And, indeed, she did: 'We keep trusting Him.'
Instead of trying to come up with some pat answer, her mother asked, “Has your hair always been this curly? Do you have a perm?”
Amanda couldn’t help smiling through her tears, and even had to stifle a giggle in spite of her grief. She turned to face her mother, loving her beyond measure, and saw her smiling also.
Today, her memories are all that are left. And an empty spot on the pew beside her. Today she had come to bury her mother. The same preacher. The same pew. The same faces. The same soloist. But her tears were not the same. Her mother had left her with a legacy - her strength.
In the year since Amanda’s brother had died, she had grown stronger. She had learned to trust God more completely. She had learned that Jesus does indeed comfort the mourning. She had one more enduring memory from that day a year ago – her mother’s reply to one of her brother’s many friends. The woman, knowing about the long illness that eaten away at her mother’s body, had commented on how strong she seemed to be and how well she was doing. And it was just like her mother to turn the attention to the One deserving of it. “Well,” she said, “all we can do is take what God gives us, and make the best we can out of it.”
Amanda had learned from where her mother had drawn her strength, and she was learning to draw from the same deep well.
Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa, but now calls Georgia home. She is happily married to her much better half, has a wonderful 23 year-old daughter, and a precious, long-haired dachshund named Lady.