I didn't want to go into work today.
It's not that I don't like my job. I do. I work at a church. My co-workers are like a second family to me.
But I didn't want to go into work today.
I was grumpy. I wanted to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself because I didn't fold the laundry and I was snippy to my husband and I was tired of fighting the critical self-talk in my head because sometimes it's easier to just give in to it rather than attempt positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations take a lot of energy. Energy that I did not have this morning.
Plus, it's a Friday. A beautiful fall Friday. After days of rain and clouds and wind here in Michigan, the sun finally decided to peek out and show its sparkly self to the world. Like a soloist tap dancer dressed in sequins, the sun is all, "I'll give 'em the ole razzle dazzle."
Thus, I wanted to take my time and sink in my grumpiness and sip a mug of hot apple cider and gaze out at the window at the oak trees basking in the sunshine.
Now that it's October, the trees are trading in their green wardrobes for cloaks of reds, magentas, yellows. If the sun is a sparkly soloist on stage, the oak trees are the audience members dressing up for the occasion. They're putting on their autumn best to take in the sunshiney show.
And yet the reality is: the trees are dying.
They give us their all--one last hurrah in a burst of fall foliage-- and go out in style. Their leaves scatter like confetti until we deem them yard waste: no longer brilliant in bursts of color, but browned and unattached and cluttering our manicured lawns.
We love the leaves when they're tall and together and beautiful, but discard them when they've fallen. Just like we do with people sometimes. Unfortunately.
Trees let things go so easily. When the signs of summer begin to fade, they don't fight it. They embrace the change by changing, too. When one tree morphs in a fit of speed and color and marigold yellow, another tree won't shrink at it's neighbor's brilliance. It stands tall, transforming from dark green to deep burgundy on its own terms.
Trees don't compare. They don't copy. Trees take their time turning and changing into what God intended them to be. They are their brightest before they fade.
I need to take a page out of the oak tree's book, I decided as I gazed out the window.
I wanted to stay here in front of this window and learn more life lessons from the oak trees and feel sorry for myself. As you do.
But (sigh) I got over myself and got up and got dressed and got in the office. And then I got a reminder about life and grief and lonely instead of, you know, laundry and snippy and couch potato.
Life loves to interfere with my pity parties.
Here's the thing: When you work at a church, you get to blur the lines. People trump process. Feelings override to-do lists. We witness many life-defining moments. We watch in real-time as memories are being made:
Messages that introduce people to faith and God.
On Tuesday--just three days ago--we hosted a funeral for a kind woman with a big heart and unwavering faith.
She attended a weekly class here at the church on Tuesday mornings. On those class days when I would walk in to the church, this woman was often the first face I saw. Sitting at a round oak table, she'd smile and greet me with a "Hi, Lindsay!" Her voice was excited and warm, like she was genuinely happy to see me. And that made me feel valued. Acknowledged. I loved walking in and seeing her face.
Sometimes, all it takes is a genuine hello to make someone's day. Her hello did for me, anyway.
This woman's funeral was honoring and memorable and personal. People sat in pews and said their prayers. A photo board displayed images of her life before most of us knew her. A younger version of her and her husband smiled in photos wearing clothes we now deem vintage but are still viewed as classy.
Memories. Moments. People. Staring back at us in sepia tones.
This morning, I sat at my desk in the front as I always do. The office was quiet, as most of the staff gone to meetings or appointments or final fall vacations before winter settles in for the next six months.
Then, the woman's husband came in to the office.
He is a dedicated man who sends out prayer requests and serves as a church elder and sat by his wife's side until her days on this earth ended. If this had been a Tuesday several months ago, he would have been sitting next to his wife at round table when I walked in to work.
Today, he stood in the doorway alone.
"Hi!" I greeted, surprised to see him and unsure what to say to someone who said goodbye to his wife a week ago to the day.
"Hello." He took a step closer and held out an envelope to me. "For the funeral."
He wore a burgundy polo that matched the oak tree leaves. His slacks looked a size too big. He probably lost weight from the stress, I thought. His white hair peppered and streaked with gray was combed like always, but still...he looked different.
We chatted about how his email wasn't working.
"I need to call Charter," he said. "I don't understand it. They say the password isn't right, but they're the ones who came up with it."
"Oh yeah, I've had a few arguments with them over the years," I admitted.
He nodded then looked down, his eyes focused on the floor. His face was full of sadness. The sadness wasn't splayed all over his features like a coat of cosmetics you could wipe off at the end of the day. This sadness was deeper. Engrained.
Like it was there to stay for the rest of his days.
Like he had lost something.
Because he had.
After decades of being married and taking care of his wife, her presence was gone. So here he was, three days later, left with logistics and details, envelopes and Charter communications company phone calls, and small talk with the girl sitting in the church's front office.
We made small talk about the weather. I took the envelope, promising to put it in it's proper place. As I watched him walk away, hiking up his too-big slacks, I stared at his back. He looked so alone. A tug pulled at my heart.
"Do you want a brownie?" I called after him. One of our volunteers had made zucchini brownies. There were two left.
"A brownie?" His voice sounded lighter. Relieved. Like he didn't want to walk away alone, either. "Well, sure, I'll take a brownie."
We stood across from each other in silence. Then, I acknowledged what we both were thinking. "The funeral was really beautiful."
Some people want to avoid talking about funerals and loss, but he grabbed onto the comment like a lifesaver.
"It really was," he exclaimed. "Wasn't it? The funeral home did such a good job."
"Yes," I agreed. "What a lovely memorial for her." He nodded.
"Today is the 7th," I explained. "Next month is me and my husband's 1-year anniversary. Got any advice?"
"Nope," he laughed. "Just keep on goin'."
I smiled. "Well, that's something we all can do then, isn't it?"
"It certainly is." He turned and walked back out into the hallway. I zipped up the plastic bag. One brownie left.
Like the trees, this man is entering a new season of life. He is now a widow. His face is weathered and wrinkled and deep, not unlike the bark of an old oak tree. But unlike the trees, memories of his wife and their lives won't be scattered like leaves in a gutter, only to be raked and collected in bags to burn. These memories will live on despite the changes.
No matter what season life throws our way, all we can do is adapt. The weather calls for change, and so they do.
Life calls for change.
And so we do.
We adapt. We just keep on goin'.
I'm glad I went to work today.