The Flowers Fall
“The grass withers and the flowers fall,” I read from Isaiah to the small group gathered there, “but the word of our God stands forever.” The small group sat in six folding chairs underneath a tent on a gentle slope dotted by gray headstones.
Maybe Isaiah was saying some of us are grass and some are flowers. The first hint of her being a flower was the timbre of her voice when I called in prescriptions to where she answered the phone at a local pharmacy years ago. Her voice was courteous, gentle, delicate, patient and gracious. Eventually she came to work in the front office of our medical clinic and the person matched the voice.
I put down my Bible on the podium that stood a few feet from the row of chairs where her family sat with weary, bewildered faces. Other persons were gathered sparsely at a distance beyond the tent, shielded from the winter drizzle with long coats and umbrellas.
I recalled to her family how it was no small thing in God’s Kingdom that, day after day, year after year, she got up and came to work in our front office. Even when patients were mean she understood how they felt, treated them with dignity and respect, and kept at her post with integrity. She stood as a delicate flower on the front line of the world. Now I stood at the head of her casket.
Covid 19 had come as a storm. Coughing and congestion, shortness of breath, in the hospital with pneumonia, then a ventilator, then…she was gone. All over a matter of days. She had been bright and healthy, and not old.
My hands were a bit cold and trembling as I brushed back my note page from folding in a breeze. She had retired from our practice for quieter work not long before I retired from that busy life. I had not seen her since my wife died two years ago but she occasionally texted encouragement to me, especially around holidays.
I remembered aloud to her family how, through the years, she always spoke of them with great priority, how her usual conversation focused on the ones she loved so much. I recounted how she honored God in being the person He created her to be. No pretenses. Honest. Humble. Gently straightforward.
And she was acquainted with grief. Her husband had died suddenly maybe four years before my wife had died suddenly. Yes, the grass withers and the flowers fall. She knew well the reality and the ways of this world. But in her grief and in her unique God-designed ways, she turned to the only One who could help.
I read Psalm 23 to that group assembled around her casket. I told them briefly how the 23rd Psalm describes a dependence on God, and how she was dependent on God. As her shepherd, she depended on Him for guidance and care. She realized she could not create her own quiet, still waters. She knew she could not restore her own soul. And in the valley of the shadow of death, she trusted God.
I looked around at some of the faces in the dreariness outside the tent and told them she was much like those first disciples of Jesus. When asked to explain salvation or hope they might have looked at Jesus and pointed to Him and said, “It’s Him. He is salvation and hope. If He says we will be OK, we trust Him.” They had met God. She trusted God like that.
So, Covid 19 had cut her days too short? The Lord would say, “but her story is not over, and never will be.” From what I know of God, He does not waste things or relationships or how He forms us. Neither does He waste pandemics.
The Lord had anointed her head with oil: the Holy Spirit in her life. And her cup had overflowed with grace and mercy, love and caring. She was involved in the kind and gentle work of God’s Kingdom, and that will continue.
Though she joined the Covid death statistics, Scripture says she is with the Lord and not like Greek philosophy floating spirits but in a substantial way. She has met face-to-face with the only Person able to give her hope and life.
We who have seen so much death look forward to the Resurrection Jesus promised. The New Jerusalem will come down, Heaven and the new earth will blend together, she, and we who know Him, will come out of the graves, alive, still ourselves but all trouble gone, living and touching those we love in ways unimaginable and good, dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
We were all getting cold in midday midwinter gray mist as I said again she was a beautiful flower, that only God could make, and now she was in His house forever. My closing prayer was brief and we all slowly dispersed.
As I walked back to my car across that cemetery slope, I paused beside my wife’s grave, but just briefly. Deep sorrow and deep joy can swell up suddenly and simultaneously within a person, I have learned.
Tears came involuntarily and I turned and headed back to the Lord’s business of renewing and restoring the earth.
Storms will come. The grass withers and the flowers fall. My name is already on that headstone beside my wife’s.
But the word of our God stands forever.
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