I stopped being surprised at the mysterious and magical coincidences in life a long time ago, and I'm not surprised to have learned of several that happened around the time of my mum's death. For example, the pair of mourning doves who followed Pete around the afternoon of the day she died, going so far as to peck on the windows of the different rooms he was moving in and out of.
The one I'm going to tell you about today happened to me, a few days after her funeral when I went to take a first pass at clearing up her apartment. I did one room, talking to her the whole time about what to do with what, and then I went into the next and sat down, too miserable not to take a break.
Mum, I said to myself, Tell me what do next.
And my eyes turned to her crochet bag, which stood beside her sewing box, and I thought well, I'll just see if she'd done anything lately (she hadn't.) Tucked into the side of the bag was a piece of card stock, with her writing on it. Mum was given to writing out verses and passages if they struck her the right way, so I wasn't surprised to find that, either. Here it is:
I'll write it out properly in case you can't read her writing - I've looked, but I have no idea who wrote it, and I apologize for not giving credit.
Life is like a river flowing always to the sea.
Sometimes it's smooth and gentle when it carries you and me
The sun shines and the water's warm; it's where you want to be.
The rocks and hidden currents can roughen up the ride
But if we look around we'll find Another at our side.
So we take the hand that's offered us, or reach out one to them,
And the next thing that we know, the sailing's smooth again.
The river turns and twists. We can't see what's ahead.
But we'll get there when we get there is all that can be said.
Sometimes we feel quite lonely on our journey to the sea,
But God waits with outstretched arms to welcome you and me.
Apart from the reminder that we're never going to know what's around the corner, even when we think we're just going to have a nice visit and some cupcakes, this struck me as so very true of mum and also of my own experiences. You don't have to go through more than one or two bad times to recognize the value of a helping hand, and - even if one hasn't been offered to you - to want to offer yours to somebody else when you can.
Mum was always doing some little thing for somebody, from volunteer work to making a meal for a neighbour who'd suffered a loss to inviting somebody over who was new in town. In the years after my brother died she'd say Well, I'd like to think that somebody did that for Bob. She was less able to give her own hand recently, but she was as sweet and appreciative as ever about accepting one offered to her.
And that underscores what I like about this verse... the balance between offering and accepting. You can do one or the other of these seemingly opposite acts but the result is the same: the river gets smoother.
And isn't that the truth? It's not better to give than to receive - it's great to do both.