Saturday morning, July 26, 2014: My 89-year-old dad drives my 85-year-old mom to her weekly hair appointment. This is unusual. Mom usually drives herself. It's her one chance a week to get out on her own. But this day, Dad has a couple things he wants to do, so he takes her to the salon and drops her off.
Dad goes to a farm where, in his earlier retirement years (say, from age 70 to 85), he drove tractor for the young buck in charge. He picks up some sweet corn and delivers some of it to an older couple of the church, then drives back to the hair salon to wait for Mom to be done.
"Clarence just pulled into the lot," says the stylist.
Ten minutes later, Mom walks to the van saying, "Oh brother, look at him, pretending to be asleep." Only he isn't pretending. And he isn't asleep.
He isn't even there.
It's in moments like that when it really hits home...what C. S. Lewis said about us not being bodies that have souls, but souls that temporarily have bodies.
The next few days are a flurry of visits and people bringing food and service arrangements and getting names pronounced correctly...but mostly, looking into the misty-eyed faces of people who are hurting because you are hurting.
Nobody knows what to say, but everybody says something. There are a lot of "I'm so sorry"s and "He went doing what he loved to do"s and "He's in a better place"s.
Truth is...I don't know the whole timing of leaving this life and experiencing a face-to-face with Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), but I don't really know if that's instantaneous or if there's a holding area until the end of time...or whether when we die we step outside the constrictions of Time and are part of the always present. I'm guessing God does it the way that's best for everybody involved. What I do know is that I'm grateful for the way I was raised by "a plain man and his wife who somehow knew the value of hard work, good love, and real life."