It would be the one my aunt tells. Weak and frail, he’d visit her, my mama’s only sister.
Her telling of the way he was then would light up her face, she beams with the comfort of their time together.
He’d visit her, pull up in his little truck for as long as he was able to drive.
He’d talk long and longingly with her about the wrongs he’d done, the longing he had to undo some days and do it all untouched by mistake and struggle.
Mostly, he made known his love.
It was his daily task, a calling.
Yesterday, I had a chance to think of my daddy, how he beat cancer; but, a tiny germ took root in his feeble lungs and it just grew fertilized by the lack of immune system.
And the doctors took forever trying to figure it out, what on earth is this tiny bacteria that is ravaging him?
They discovered a rare thing, it had come from the dirt. We were all confounded, defeated and distraught over deciding to let him go.
And I thought, dirt somehow got in there, maybe he’d walked towards my house, drove with windows down through the lane cutting through the cornfields, dirt, the earth had infected his lungs.
Oh, the tragic irony!
But, time and grace came and over time
Changed my reading of the story.
Became a fitting comfort because of the annual garden, the potatoes we dug up, my children dressed in overalls, their hineys resting at the end of a row, my daughter clutching her baby brother.
I have a picture of the scene, my daddy’s feet planted in the cool autumn dirt, my babies in the foreground.
I know some people now with news of illness and some, I know in places marked by faithful and powerful prayer and responses from God less than hopeful.
And God has placed on my path someone whose father has cancer. She can’t visit now, his immune system not allowing.
I listened and remembered and I did my best, although, not surely enough to comfort.
When words aren’t there, or the listener not strong enough to hear them, listening is a comfort.
And is enough, more than sometimes.
Because I understand, almost twenty years later, I understand and I think we get all out of sorts when we see another facing diagnosis or bleak prognosis.
We look for right words or we avoid, afraid to let our recall of fear be reflected on our faces.
When comfort, I believe, is no more than simply saying I have been where you are and here I am now.
To comfort another is to open our book on grief and share the story the reader might be longing to hear.
One of a similar tragic time and one or two or so many more of the stories time used to refine them
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV