For the last 5 years or so, I’ve delivered a Meals-on-Wheels route to the elderly in a community not far from ours. I deliver on this route twice a month, and over the years, this ministry has proven to be quite a blessing to me.
I first began alone; then, a dear friend began to deliver with me during his senior year in high school. Now, for the last year or so, my daughter (now 9yo) has been delivering with me. She is more faithful to these “customers” than words can express. She loves these people… people who are in such a diametrically different station in life than she is, people who have a raging stream of memories behind them rather than a vast sea of possibilities before them as she does. But she cares and cares deeply. Her love for them is a thing of beauty. She prays for some of them daily… EVERY DAY. She talks about them with her siblings and mom. She talks about them at church. She cries over the thought of losing them to death. She smiles when she tells her Momma Bear stories that they tell her. She cherishes (and keeps!) cards they give her. She’s even received some gifts from a few of them. They love her, and she surely loves them.
Though some of my “customers” have changed in these 5 years, several have been with me since my very first delivery. One who’s been with me from the very beginning is Mrs. Margie. When I first met her, she was was 91 years old and full of life and vigor. She was always one of the most delightful people to be around, and I’ve always regretted that my visits with her have to be so brief. After all, I’m delivering to 16 other folks along the way, and I’m supposed to complete my route within an hour and a half. (I’ve probably only accomplished this goal twice out of what has probably been over 130 attempts.)
As you can imagine, Mrs. Margie’s health has declined through the course of these years. Actually, it held pretty strong for about 4 of these these years, but it’s been unwaveringly waning for quite a few months now. Recently, she’s been discussing the end of her days quite often. In the past couple of months, there’s not been a single time Imogene and I have visited with her that she hasn’t mentioned what seems to be looming over her… her mortality and that cursed and cruel valley of death’s shadow. She seems to be able to feel its cold and see its darkness. She cries and hangs her head low in embarrassment, apologizing for letting Imogene see her cry, and when she does, Imogene wipes away tears of her own.
A few weeks ago, she said that she’d probably be gone from this world before my next delivery two weeks later. I feared that she would be proven right. I hurt. I wept. Imogene hurt. Imogene wept.
For now, Mrs. Margie is still with us, and she’s still the subject of many of my daughter’s prayers. In fact, even after she passes through the shadow’s of that terrible valley, she’ll probably remain the subject of quite a number of Imo’s prayers. (I still remember asking Jesus to let me talk to my best friend Joey after he died unexpected in the fourth grade, and sometimes, I think that He very well might allow such conversations.)
This past Monday, I was rocked to my core by walking into Mrs. Margie’s living room and catching a glimpse of my business card next to her. She said that she’d been praying for me. Talk about having your heart tenderized… You should know that she’s insisted that her family (and the county) keep me informed as she leaves this world and passes on into the life that is to come. A few days ago, Imogene asked me if I think “Mrs. Margie [is] ready to meet Jesus”, and I said that I think she is. We’ve prayed with her multiple times, which is probably a No-No in the eyes of the state, but she’s often asked that we do so. Even still, I wasn’t prepared for what happened during this visit Monday… Mrs. Margie told us that she was ready to meet Jesus, started to cry, and began praying for Imogene and me. That’s right: Mrs. Margie, with 96 years of life’s joys and heartaches, was praying for us. Talk about humbling… My soul was devastated by the sheer humility of realizing that, while I think I’m doing HER a service and ministering to HER needs, all the while, she’s interceding in MY behalf and caring for MY needs. I was rocked.
As soon as she declared her Amen, I immediately followed her prayer with my own, primarily giving thanks for her sweet gentleness and strong joy and asking Jesus to give her His strength. On the way back to our car, Imogene asked me what I meant by asking for her to be strengthened, and I (pathetically, I’m sure) explained that we need courage and inner strength to walk through difficult times and to face scary things, death and dying surely being two of the most difficult and scary [yes, TWO, not one, for one is not quite the same as the other].
I’ll never forget those moments. I hope there to be plenty more with Mrs. Margie before the end, though I confess my doubts as it seems to be so quickly drawing near.
“Lord Jesus, have mercy on your servant, Mrs. Margie.”