December 5th dawned in typical North Carolina fashion – bright, clear, mild in temperature. With Thanksgiving behind us, and Christmas ahead, we all awoke to renewed hopes and dreams for the future completely unaware that by the end of the day, life would change forever for a family and friends.
We knew Cheryl had a serious health issue back in October. My layman’s understanding of it was only that she had bleeding in the brain the doctors attempted to repair with surgery. That December morning, the time bomb buried so deeply in her brain finally slowly detonated setting off a day that would culminate in Cheryl’s death.
My memories of Cheryl are rich with images of a woman who knew how to serve others. She was the consummate pastor’s wife but viewed her role as wife and mother as far superior callings. If there was a wedding in the church, Cheryl always had a hand in serving in some way. Her understanding of etiquette and her tasteful suggestions made some of the simplest budget weddings into elegant affairs. I always considered that a gift of blessing. I remember her spending hours constructing a floral arch over a church doorway only to fall off the chair at the very end. She cut her ear seriously enough to require stitches but she was back from the emergency room in time for that wedding!
At her funeral, her eldest daughter spoke of her mother’s hospitality. Cheryl kept a guest book which she encouraged guests to sign and from it, Terri calculated that Cheryl had hosted guests on average every three days for 2 decades or more. Terri recalled the family bidding house guests goodbye in the morning and then changing the sheets to welcome yet another new house guest that evening. Cheryl opened the family home to many, many people who lived extended periods of time with the family during times of hardship. Serving others with hospitality wasn’t a nice theoretical principle, Cheryl walked the talk. I remember pondering this at the funeral and realizing that by her example, many of us who thought we were competent hostesses were really amateurs in comparison.
Hundreds of people came to bid Cheryl goodbye. Hundreds. All coming to honor a life that was lived well. I once asked my forum members how many people they thought would attend their funerals. It was discouraging to read of numbers as low as 5 persons. Many people had no expectation that their family and acquaintances would find their life and death so notable as to make any effort to honor it. I ponder whether such admissions indicate a general, societal apathy towards the mundane such as hospitality and kindness or whether it reveals that some people’s lives really are not particularly noteworthy. Are we living our lives in such a way that invests in people? Or are we living a life so unremarkable that few see enough value in it to give one last remembrance?
How many people would come to your funeral?