We’re doing a great deal of reminiscing about Nate these days, especially in reference to the last couple of weeks of his life. The kids and I are still eating dinner in the living room in front of the fire, just like we used to do with Nate. Tonight we got to laughing about some of the silly moments God sprinkled among the sad ones.
Nelson remembered a phone call Nate made to him from our car as we were driving from Chicago back to Michigan. Nate was under the influence of several drugs at the time and spoke slowly, deliberately. He mixed up the names of the children as he made reference to them in his voice mail and chatted at length about miscellaneous details. Then he began thanking Nelson for all he’d done to help us.
“Thank you… sooo much… for… everything,” he said, repeating it three times. After a pause, he concluded the long message with, “In Jesus name, Amen. Goodbye.”
Linnea had been in the car at the time, and we caught each other’s gaze in the rear view mirror, giggling through our eyes. Nate never caught his mistake, and tonight we enjoyed remembering how he was in a near-prayer mindset that day, even when conversing on the phone.
A second silly situation happened the night before the day of Nate’s death. God saw the heaviness we all felt because of what was coming and knew we needed to laugh. Mary and I were keeping watch overnight for the third night in a row, Mary on a straight backed chair at Nate’s feet and me in a wing chair at his head. Those were the only spots to squeeze chairs into the room except for one little corner where our overnight nurse, Dee, sat on a short stool.
During that long night, all of us battled to stay awake, not wanting Nate to slip away without our attention and love. Mary gradually slumped to her side as sleep overtook her, and at one point she opened her eyes and saw Dee’s knee and leg right in front of her. She asked herself, “Is my head in Dee’s lap?” Mortified by the thought but too exhausted to do anything about it, she closed her eyes and told herself, “If I’m on top of Dee, it’s really comfortable.”
In reality she’d been on a pillow, but had she been in Dee’s lap, Dee would have been fine with that. Such was the nature of the tender-hearted Hospice nurses.
The last humorous episode occurred at a time when no one ought to be thinking funny thoughts. It was at Nate’s grave site at Rose Hill Cemetery. I was seated in the center chair immediately in front of the casket, sitting next to Linnea and holding a red rose.
After the pastor had finished his scriptural remarks and a prayer, the funeral director asked me if I wanted to put my rose on top of the casket before it went down. Of course I did, but I’d just realized one of my thigh-high nylons had lost its grip and was sliding down my leg. It was perched just beneath my knee, directly under my hem line, and when I stood up I knew it would go sliding to my ankle.
I turned to Linnea and said, “My nylon is at my knee and going down. What should I do?”
“Pull it up,” she whispered. But a row of people standing to the right would have seen that move. I would have had to reach under my skirt, grab the edge and reveal a full leg to the audience, right at that very sad time. Linnea and I did something absolutely incongruous for that moment. We giggled.
Feeling pressure to stand and put my rose on the casket, I pressed my knees together, hoping to pin the wayward nylon, and took a mini-step in that direction, laying my rose down and stepping back into my chair immediately.
As soon as the casket had been lowered into the grave, Linnea said, “You’d better get up, Mom. No one will leave until you do.”
I stood with my knees together and hobbled quickly to our mini-van, which was close by, catching the nylon’s plunge just as I stepped into the car. I’m sure the pastor, whom I didn’t stop to thank, figured my hasty exit was a response to overwhelming grief.
”A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 15:13)