It was a little too dangerous to be out on the roads that had just claimed the life of a young father. Great, treacherous flakes floated down from the clouds that hid the heavens. But that didn’t stop them from coming.
Beautiful saints, every one, they came to give a soft place for the tears to fall, to embrace the broken, and to mourn with those who mourned the most.
Bonnie, who had been widowed younger than my mother—was my mother a widow?—was one of the first to come. She came in, soggy from the snow, and grabbed my mother’s hands without stopping to take off her coat. Her tear-stained eyes searched my mother’s face for the pain she knew was there and the pain she knew was coming.
They sat together in the steel light of the feather-frosted window, and Bonnie sobbed. She sobbed for her dead young husband and she sobbed for my tall, handsome father, and she sobbed for my mother because Bonnie knew.
She sobbed because there was nothing else she could do.
There was nothing else anyone could do, and so, like Bonnie, they came in, silent as snow. Dear friends from church, relatives, even neighbors–everyone came. Some came for a minute, heaving a potted plant into my arms or pressing a fold of money into my hand for my mother before they flurried away so as not to be a bother.
Others stayed until the shadows grew and melted into the freshly-fallen snow. They did not know how to leave a woman who had just been left all alone in the world with three young children and a house that needed fixing. So they lingered.
They lingered until the little green house in the middle of the forest was filled up with the scent of the saints. Even with the drafty windows and a wood stove that wasn’t quite up to the task, there was a warmth in that place unlike anything I had known before. It was warm enough to calm the shivers that convulsed through my body, warm enough to stop my teeth from chattering, warm enough to help me believe that somehow, it would be okay.
I watched from the corner of the couch, from my little refuge behind the tall-backed adults and the nodding heads and the sad voices, and I saw Him. Jesus. Jesus in real hands and real feet and real tears crying over our Lazarus- grave when it was too late and there was nothing else that could be done.
How beautiful He is.
I rested my head on a couch cushion. It smelled like my Sunday school teacher, who didn’t have any children but who loved children more than most women who did. She had been there with me, and her fragrance lingered and filled up my space like a slow, parting embrace.
The entire house smelled like Jesus, in the remarkable way that Jesus smells like Dial soap and Old Spice and a kitchen full of casseroles.
Had He been there that day?
In my mind, I went over all the faces. Some old, some young, some full of their own agonies and some who were just learning how hope could be shattered. Each with a story, but each willing to step in to the day when my story fell apart. Just like Jesus.
It left me breathless.
Somehow, Jesus had come to my living room garden, and He had whispered to me, “Child, child. Why do you weep?”
He said it in words that came through other lips, chosen messengers, but it was there all the same. I clung to them as the bitter sleep drifted in and I thought to myself, if this is what it takes to see Jesus, then let it be.
I think of it, all these years later because we are in a hard bit of the road, right here. I have told you about it, dear saints, and you have come in with arms that ache to hold me up and tell me it will be okay. Some of you have cried with me because you know. You have called and you have written and you have prayed for me even when you do not know me, not really.
You have been Jesus to me.
And I weep because it is so beautiful, I do not know that I could ever trade these moments even for all the answers I ever wanted that did not come. I am surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, and it is you, dear friends, who cheer me on. It is you, dear ones, who minister Christ to me in real hands and real feet and real tears that cry over my Lazarus-grave.
You have shown me Jesus. I cannot wish for any other.
I am left with nothing more to say in my prayers but this: If this is what it takes to see Jesus, then let it be.