Monday, January 12, 2015

Not a Cliché

At the local gym, recently, I ran into a man who lost his wife over the Christmas Holiday. We had become acquaintances over the years through our morning exercise ritual. Obviously devoted to each other, the older couple shared a good-natured sense of humor that always delighted me.

Shirley’s illness arose quickly, but she lingered near death for several weeks. Never good at funerals, I skipped it. Seeing her husband, George, sitting with a friend after exercise, I said a prayer that God would be with my mouth and guard the door to my lips, as I exited the building.

I hate the obvious platitude, “I’m sorry,” that awkward acknowledgement necessary to move on. I planned to express something simple, but less trite. Rubbing Georges shoulder, I proceeded to fumble and say exactly the “I’m sorry” I didn’t want.

Quite relaxed and gracious, George relieved my bumbling, mentioning how Shirley always said she was “ready,” but how none of us really are. “We’re hardwired to live.” Hand still on his shoulder, I nodded remembering her words and 

took a swig from my water bottle. Then he surprised me by adding, “If they sold tickets to heaven, I doubt anybody would stand in line.”

I’m not sure if it was nerves, or the quirky way he came out with it, but I started to laugh, and promptly squirted a mouthful of water over my grieving friend. A good sport, he acknowledged my ridiculousness with an amusing comment. Certainly not a cliché moment, the incident broke the tension, I so feared.

Strange how God answers prayer. 

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