I was doing some much-needed downsizing the other day. You know the kind: “Do I keep this or toss it?”
After cleaning out some storage cabinets, I moved on to dresser drawers. Inside, I found a huge stack of sympathy cards sent to me when my husband, Roy, died several years ago. Still bound together, the cards had not been touched since I last read them many years back. The cards were from our neighbors, our church family, our friends and even Roy’s health care providers.
I stood with the cards in hand, trying to decide: “Shall I keep them or toss them?” I noticed that the stack left a large empty space in that drawer and wondered if I, too, would feel that same emptiness within me if those cards were gone.
Eventually, I decided that all things must come to a close. It was time to move on. I took the cards, sat in my recliner and read them all one more time.
Words of comfort
I know that when you send a sympathy card, you are supposed to say some words of comfort to help ease the pain. Some folks wrote “with deepest sympathy” or “sending our love” or “sorry for your loss.” However, the cards that told me how much Roy was loved, that described the things he did for others were the ones that brought tears to my eyes.
Many cards spoke of the senders’ friendship with Roy through the years and of the hugs he gave to everyone. At Roy’s memorial service, Pastor Tim announced, “We have lost our hugger!”
Another card was from a retired pastor and his wife, both members of our congregation. Enclosed with the card was a page that the pastor, Ed, had removed from a prayer booklet years before and carried in his wallet. Ed said that he was sure Roy would want me to have it after he was gone. And he was right.
We rejoice with you?
The next card caused me to do a double-take when I read it. It said, “We rejoice with you, Joan…” What? Rejoice? Did I read it right? I read it again—this time slowly and completely.
“We rejoice with you, Joan, in the good name of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the knowledge that Roy is with him in his eternal rest. I will surely miss his hugs.”
You can be sure I spent a lot of time wiping away the tears.
In the end, I saved a few of the cards that held special messages for me. It was time for me to move on, and I have now filled that emptiness in me with many memories of a lifetime that we shared together.
As that one card read, it was time to rejoice in God’s grace, knowing “that Roy is with him in his eternal rest.”
After all, isn’t that what celebrating life is all about?
Joan Amundsen is a member of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hatfield, Penn. This blog first ran as a “Give us this day” piece the September 2017 issue of Gather magazine.