We’ll understand it all by and by…
This past Sunday, July 26, was the first anniversary of my friend Lola’s death. I have written about her several times here in Patchwork And Potpourri, sharing bits of my grief journey as I have tried to process her passing and make some sense of it. While I have not been able to accomplish the sense-making part, I have found amazing pieces of comfort and blessing along the way.
Some months back, my church music director, Joan, planned an old-fashioned gospel singing (or as we in the South sometimes say, a “SANGIN'”!) for this date. I cut my teeth on many kinds of music, but old-timey hymns and gospel songs are like mother’s milk to me, so I naturally jumped on the bandwagon…and then I realized what day it was, becoming uncertain and unsettled as to whether I’d be up for this gathering on such a poignant anniversary. Oh, me of little faith!
At this point I need to back up and recall last year. Lola had died on a Saturday, and I had committed some weeks before to sing a duet with my friend Marc the next day at our friend Greg’s church. Part of me feared a complete breakdown in the middle of the song…but my inner musician kicked in and soldiered on. Moments like these are when God works in ways that are beyond understanding, providing His strength in my weakness. We sang, our voices blending in that unique way that Marc and I always seem to achieve, God singing through us to speak to those gathered there, and ministering to my soul in the midst of such overwhelming sadness. Afterward we sat together behind the piano, and I began to cry silent, uncontrollable tears. Marc reached for my hand and mouthed, “What…?” and I mouthed back, “Lola died yesterday.” He had known all about her illness, prayed for her along with others I had asked to pray, and when I shared that she had died, he just held my hand and petted my arm. No more words were needed.
The whole rest of last summer, God added feathers to my growing collection, signs of His eye upon the sparrow. I had started collecting them years before, but in the wake of Lola’s death, I started finding them eveywhere! Tons of feathers, showing up to remind me that she and my many loved ones in Heaven are all OK…and that I eventually would be OK, too.
This past Sunday, on Lola’s anniversary, once more I sang and made harmony with my longtime friend Marc, recalling last year’s moments of comfort in sadness, strength in weakness, music in tears. We hugged and talked and laughed…and sang, the old gospel songs about Heaven and hope. And as Marc and I left the church together, I found another feather, my first one in months. “Feather!” I exclaimed as I reached down to pick it up. Marc said, “Oh yeah…” I said it must be a Happy-First-Anniversary-In-Heaven-for-Lola feather, and he agreed.
A favorite old song of mine is “Farther Along”. Granny used to sing it and Mama taught it to me. It has been recorded by artists ranging from Southern Gospel quartets to The Byrds, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The chorus states:
“Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why.
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine.
We’ll understand it all by and by.”
As I sang it this past Sunday I thought of Lola, her death and her life, and how much I still don’t understand why she had to leave us so soon. I thought about Joan and the lovely blue hydrangeas from her garden that she had brought in to decorate the tables, reminding me of the ones from Mom Cutshaw’s backyard. I thought of the almost mystical harmony that happens whenever Marc and I sing together. I thanked God for these gifts and mysteries.
And once more I looked forward to that day when things I wonder about now will somehow make sense…farther along, by and by.