On Sunday evening, two friends and I were cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner. The spouseman and a couple of other friends were sitting around our dining room table, laughing and talking. I was struck by a thought that, to some, might seem morbid but was as filled with wonder and gratitude as I could ever imagine. To give it a bit more context and meaning, I need to harken back to conversations Sherod and I have had in the past.
One of the questions for people like us, who got used to living in border spaces, has been “where will we be buried when we die”? That, in some ways, points at what we define as home and for the longest time, we had no answer. We’d come to spend a holiday in Selma and I’d marvel at family plots with generations and generations of a single family buried together. Generations being born, living and dying in one place is far, far removed from the realities of my family, where each generation for at least the last four, has literally moved to a different continent than where the previous generation lived. In my generation, my older brother will likely be buried in Holland and my younger brother in the U.K. I still wish there could have been a place that marked my mother’s life, a place where I could see her name and get as close to her as is possible when all you do is use your finger to gently follow the letters of a name on a little plaque or tombstone. Her ashes went swiftly and playfully down to the Pacific Ocean after we sent them on their way in the Rio Caldera and the most I can do is gaze at a picture my younger brother took as he left Panama after her death, a picture that shows where the Caldera empties out into the Pacific.
On any given day, I would have answered differently if asked where Sherod and I would want to be buried or have our ashes buried or scattered. I was OK with that—after all, it reflected how lightly we held to place as a definition of home. Now, there is much less doubt and in fact, sometime soon I have to make some arrangements because we know where our final resting place will be. We’ve even talked about filing funeral plans at Ascension.
I hadn’t realized until Sunday evening that there was a corollary to the sense of rootless-ness that defined most of our life together. With a husband 14 years older than I am, it is fairly reasonable to consider the possibility that I will outlive Sherod. I have never given much thought to what it would be like in the wake of his death, if in fact, I do outlive him. What came rushing in, uninvited and unexpected, as I stood laughing with my friends, as I looked around my kitchen, was a certainty that I’d be OK. I’d be able to find my way through that particular devastation. There would be people to walk with me, there would be other parts of my life that would demand my attention, that this small farm, and all the new responsibilities I would have to shoulder, would provide comfort and consolation.
In Fort Lauderdale, with the partnership in ministry Sherod and I developed, if something happened to him, it happened to me as well, when it came to my work situation. Even if I could continue working in the ministries we were involved in, I would not be able to earn enough to hold on to our house and the life we had built together. I am so liberated by having found and been found by Ascension on my own merits and on my own, by the fact that our vocational paths have broken away from each other definitively. I am my own person in ways I don’t think any woman before me in my family has ever experienced. I am also part of a community that I belong to and belongs to me. If it is true that I dread losing Sherod and even pray that it will be I who go first, I am so incredibly thankful that I can bear to consider such a possibility.
And really, such thoughts are grounded in something even deeper and more new to me. I have never had more of a sense of belonging, never been less lonely, than I am now. That is quite simply stunning. AMDG