It’s hard to know how to reflect on the last few weeks. At the start of the last fortnight, we had a funeral. At the end of the next week, we had a graduation. The highs and lows of life have been all jumbled up and combined at a pace that was almost unsustainable.
We farewelled my wonderful mother-in-law. To be honest, it all seems surreal still. I don’t expect to see her around because we lived so far apart so it doesn’t seem as though she’s gone. And yet I stood on the muddy ground as they lowered her – or what was left of her after the cancer had done its worst - into the cold earth. I was fine at the funeral. Well. Almost fine. It was when I got back to the house that it began to sink in. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and I opened the pantry to find something.
Everything about the place made me think of her. Her writing on the labels. The ingredients that were so familiar I could name the dishes they would be destined for. The cereal that she only bought for the grandkids when they stayed. It wasn’t just that she was a good cook (she was indeed). It was that the kitchen was the heart of how she served and loved her family, her church, her community and even strangers that came her way.
The kitchen undid me and I had to take refuge in the front yard for a bit to pull myself together. Still, once we travelled home, I felt disconnected again from the whole event. It’s been such a long time coming - this terrible end that we kept hoping would be avoided somehow - that it’s hard to process.
I haven’t let myself think much about it since we returned home. Haven’t want to and haven’t had much time. My husband had to go away for work the week after. The kids needed attention. My work was frantic. Then in the middle of last week I suddenly realised what I wanted: a photo of the pantry. With tears, and mentally kicking myself for not having taken the photo while I’d been up there the week before, I sent off a hurried email to my sister-in-law who is still at the house. “Could you please take a photo of the pantry and email it to me? Open both doors and step back until the pantry fills the frame. Please don’t neaten anything up. Thanks.” Odd. But thankfully my sister-in-law is kind to lunatics and sent me back my requested shot.
I’ve edited it now and added below the verse that my mother-in-law kept on her fridge for the last couple of years of her trial. Once I get the right frame, I plan to hang in it my kitchen. Her pantry in my kitchen. A great reminder of the example she set me in her loving service to her family and beyond, and of the hope she had that there was much more to come beyond our few short days.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Anyway, that was the funeral. I’ll bore you with the graduation in another post some time soon.