We usually hear that phrase when something has gone wrong, as a mild way to express frustration. “My word, child, you are ….”
Yesterday, I thought of that phrase in a whole new way.
I went to a funeral calling, to the time of visiting with family and seeing the body. I walked into the funeral home, chatted with some people I know, got in the line for visiting, and then looked up the line. The person I came to see wasn’t in line.
That wasn’t too surprising, since I came to talk with the first wife of the man who had died. It made complete sense that the person standing closest to the casket would be the second wife (and widow). Since I’ve never met her, and don’t know three of the four children, I got out of line. I went back up the hallway and found the back door to the large room, the door where people were leaving. Going through that door, I found the person I was looking for.
I’ve know Kay for about four years, I think, since she started as the director of the childcare in the church where I was the administrative pastor. We talked a lot during the year that we worked together, until the childcare closed (through no fault of hers). Every conversation with her, my respect grew.
You see, several years before, she had been the wife of the person who was then pastor of this church. This church had been her life, the people were close friends of the two of them. And then the two of them became two different thems. He had made promises to her and to God and decided that he didn’t want to keep those promises. He left that church, left that wife.
It was a hard thing for her as she battled physical illness and the pain of someone else’s spiritual illness. She worked hard, prayed hard, loved her kids, loved her God, and lived.
If you are a reader who notices when familiar phrases don’t appear, you will notice that I didn’t use the phrase, “moved on.” She lived on, but she had one interesting quirk. Just because he broke his word, she thought, didn’t give her permission to break her word. Being committed, being faithful to one man didn’t stop with divorce. It didn’t stop with his remarriage. It didn’t stop when he didn’t believe that he had done anything wrong. It didn’t stop when she struggled with her health and the health of her family. It didn’t stop when his example affected their children. It didn’t stop when she could have found it very easy to say, “God? Why should I trust you when pastors and churches and people and life aren’t trustworthy.”
Did she think they would get back together? No, she didn’t. Not in marriage. But she did earnestly hope and pray that he would someday acknowledge that he hadn’t kept his word.
He died last week, of a brain tumor. During the past couple years, bridges were rebuilt, slowly, painfully, a rope at a time. (Some bridges, after all, are massive concrete structures; others are rope bridges hanging high above and abyss, allowing one person at a time, with fear and trembling, to cross). Near the end there were some moments of clarity, both physically and spiritually. She saw what she had earnestly asked come to pass, without drama on her part. She had offered forgiveness long ago. At last, without her prompting, the need for that forgiveness was acknowledged.
So yesterday there was one casket and two grieving women. They could see each other. They acknowledged the role each other had in his life. The first wife was present, invited, welcomed, at the request of the second wife.
She kept her word. And ultimately, so has God.
I told this woman, older than I, deeper than I, far more faithful than I, “I’m proud of you.”
And, my word, I’m humbled by her.