For two weeks now I’ve had this package sitting on my desk. It arrived shortly before my birthday, along with a card. “Have a Kleenex nearby,” came the warning inside the card.
The gift is from The Redhead.
I’m not at all surprised to have received a gift from the Redhead after her passing. That’s just the sort of person she is — even in death, thinking of others first.
I’m not good like that. After I spoke at The Redhead’s funeral one older gent came up to me and said that he’d been thinking what a terribly selfish life he had been leading — until I spoke. Then he realized that if God could save me, well, then there was hope for him.
I suppose if I can’t be good, at least I can be inspiring, heh?
I look at this box everyday and think about opening it but just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a young war widow in Texas. She told me that when she heard a knock at her front door and saw two uniformed men waiting, she ran out the back door of her home and crouched down.
“I figured as long as I didn’t hear the news then it couldn’t be true,” she said. Her tears gushed like a spigot left unattended.
The things we do to survive.
The lies we tell ourselves.
The truths we run from.
The joys we miss in the pursuit of happiness.
I know there is something wonderful inside this box. This box contains something that I will cherish. It will hold some secret shared between The Redhead and me. I’m sure the minute I open this gift, I’ll recall some conversation we had, a moment of hilarity perhaps. But mostly this box serves as a reminder that the greatest gift she gave me was the gift of herself.
I made her roll her eyes a lot, too.
Sometimes she did more than roll her eyes. Sometimes she would call me out on my foolish ways. Sometimes she just walked away praying for me.
I thought of all that while reading L’Engle’s Irrational Season this morning. L’Engle tells a story about a community of believers she belonged to once:
“It wasn’t until our full-time days at Crosswicks had been behind us for a number of years that I looked back with the blessing of memory. I saw that for nearly a decade I had experienced the kind of love described in the Acts of the Apostles, despite all our human flaws. The early Christians quarreled, and so did we. Once Hank got so mad at me during choir practice that he threw a hymnal at me. One wife came into the store one day at noon looking a bit dazed and said, “I just broke a plate over Stephen’s head.” But despite it all, we were there for each other.”
There isn’t a box big enough to hold the gift of companionship and the blessing of memory. The Redhead taught me that a grateful heart is the only thing sturdy enough to protect such precious gifts.