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December 31, 2020

When a new year comes, most of us tend to look back at the past year and reflect.  Of course, this year especially we probably will reflect on the obstacles and hard times we have been through and hoping and praying that they will end.  There is so much to reflect on, and all of our lives have been changed or affected in some way.  As I reflect, the past year, especially the last few months, has been about all of the sickness and death I have seen.  Funerals or memorial services that did not happen, those that did happen but limited attendance, folks unable to visit loved ones…  it just tears at me.  We want to see how folks are doing… more than a phone call or face time.  We want to give and receive hugs and kisses.  Just so much reflect and dwell on…
“The elderly caretaker of a peaceful lonely cemetery received a check every month from a woman, an ailing person in a hospital in a nearby city.  The check was to buy fresh flowers for the grave of her son, who had been killed in an automobile accident a couple of years before.  One day a car drove into the cemetery and stopped in front of the caretaker’s ivy-covered administration building.  A man was driving the car.  In the back seat sat an elderly lady, pale as death, her eyes half-closed.  ‘This lady is too ill to walk,’ the driver told the caretaker.  ‘Would you mind coming with us to her son’s grave – she has a favor to ask you.  You see, she is dying, and she has asked me, as an old family friend, to bring her out here for one last look at her son’s grave.’
‘Is this Mrs. Wilson?’ the caretaker asked.  The man nodded.  ‘Yes, I know who she is.  She’s the one who has been sending me a check every month to put flowers on her son’s grave.’  The caretaker followed the man to the car and got in beside the woman.  She was frail and obviously near death.  But there was something else about her face, the caretaker noted – the eyes dark and sullen, hiding some deep long-lasting hurt.  ‘I am Mrs. Wilson,’ she whispered.  ‘Every month for the last two years…’  ‘Yes, I know.  I have attended to it, just as you asked.’
‘I have come here today,’ she went on, ‘because the doctors tell me I have only a few weeks left.  I shall not be sorry to go.  There is nothing left to live for.  But before I die, I wanted to come here for one last look and to make arrangements with you to keep on placing the flowers on my son’s grave.’  She seemed exhausted – the effort to speak sapping her strength.  The car made its way down a narrow, gravel road to the grave.  When they reached the grave, the woman, with what appeared to be great effort, raised herself slightly and gazed out the window at her son’s tombstone.  There was no sound during the moments that followed – only the chirping of the birds in the tall, old trees scattered among the graves.
Finally, the caretaker spoke.  ‘You know, Ma’am, I was always sorry you kept spending money for the flowers.’  The woman seemed at first not to hear.  Then slowly she turned toward him.  ‘Sorry?’ she whispered.  ‘Do you realize what you are saying – my son… ‘ ‘Yes, I know,’ he said gently.  ‘But, you see, I belong to a church group that every week visits hospitals, asylums, prisons.  There are live people in those places who need cheering up, and most of them love flowers – they can see them and smell them.  That grave – ‘he said, ‘over there – there’s no one living, no one to see and smell the beauty of the flowers…’ he looked away, his voice trailing off.  The woman did not answer, but just kept staring at the grave of her son.  After what seemed like hours, she lifted her hand and the man drove them back to the caretaker’s building.  He got out and without a word they drove off.  I’ve offender her, he thought.  I shouldn’t have said what I did.
Some months later, however, he was astonished to have another visit from the woman.  This time there was no driver.  She was driving the car herself!  The caretaker could hardly believe his eyes.  ‘You were right,’ she told him, ‘about the flowers.  That’s why there have been no more checks.  After I got back to the hospital, I couldn’t get your words out of my mind.  So I started buying flowers for the others in the hospital who didn’t have any.  It gave me such a feeling of joy to see how much they enjoyed them – and from a total stranger.  It made them happy, but more than that, it made me happy.  ‘The doctors don’t know,’ she went on, ‘what is suddenly making me well, but I do.’”  (You, Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Anymore:  Chicken Soup for the Soul)
There are good things that happen to us and there are bad things that happen to us.  But why do we dwell on the bad things.  Why focus on the rear-view mirror when you have a wide view in front of you?  Moving forward is part of faith and what hope is about.  We can cherish the memories but focusing on the negative will bring us down in so many ways.  “Pain and suffering is inevitable, being miserable is optional (Art Clanin).  Let’s not dwell on 2020 but instead focus  on 2021 and get strength from what we have overcome, look to our faith and remember the birth of Jesus as our hope.  Once again, I share one of my favorite quotes:  get busy living or get busy dying (Shawshank Redemption).
I had the opportunity to hear Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires at Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival in Milwaukee in 2017.    The following lyrics are from her song:  Take On The Dark.
I know I said, “Everything’s gonna be okay”
But what I meant to say was, “You’ll make it through”
Tomorrow will come, tomorrow is yet to be won
You’ll push yourself back up and fight the urge to run
And take on the dark
Without letting it take over
Lead with your heart
Don’t look over your shoulder
And take on the dark
It’s okay to fall apart
It’s okay to fall apart
It’s okay to fall apart
Worry can be a tumblin’, tumultuous sea
With all of its roarin’ and its breakin’
How ’bout you be the waves, too unafraid to even be brave?
See yourself breakin’ out of this place
It is ok to fall apart, but not good to stay there.  May 2021 be a year where you emerge from the dark, strengthened by faith and living in hope.  God bless and God’s got you!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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