The ‘I love you’ girl is running wild. Missing part of her brain and experiencing fine motor skills issues has meant that she’s been unable to walk. She crawls all over the place and loves to ‘walk’ which is her name for being pushed around in her stroller. At age eleven she is incredibly strong primarily because she is constantly pulling herself up into chairs and dragging her ever growing body around the house. Her disabilities limit her freedom, but Saturday at my Mom’s funeral she ran wild.
That Saturday was a long day for Justin and the girls. As usual he was providing respite care for Jolie and Terra’s mom. But that Saturday was a long and busy day. Justin brought them first to the graveside service, then to the memorial service, and finally out to dinner with all the gathered family. It was emotional and tiring and the decorum around such an event seemed overwhelming. At the graveside Jolie was restless and a bit disruptive. Sitting in a chair while people were weeping, praying, and softly talking is not high on the list of entertainments appreciated by Jolie.
We migrated to the church and Justin let her sit in the wheelchair while he helped carry in boxes and set up the table of remembrances. Jolie figured out how to make the chair move. Wow, was that fun! No waiting for someone to push her any longer. She was suddenly free to run. To run wild. And run she did. Smiling, laughing, giggling with joy she rode the chair around the room, smashing into tables, and running into people and taking delight in every moment. In the midst of our sorrows, we couldn’t help but laugh at her joy.
Of course, freedom has its limits. Eventually we made our way into the sanctuary and Justin pushed her chair to the front row and locked the wheels. She was not happy and grumbled like an Israelite in the Negev. The memorial service started and soon we were singing some beautiful old hymns. “Softly And Tenderly” and “Amazing Grace” rang out. Jolie loves to sing and loves music. At the end of the first song she clapped and yelled out, “Again!” Locked wheels were forgotten as we sang another. Jolie clapped and smiled. Singing is such fun. Whenever she sees me she calls me ‘Ong’ which is her version of song. I’ve spent many hours singing with her. She sings the last word of every song we sing together. The beautiful harmonies backed up by organ and piano enthralled not just me, but Jolie as well.
When the sermon rolled around, Jolie grew a little restless. Her attention span weakened and she was looking for some action. Still, she was quiet and didn’t fight her restrictions. The pastor talked about his last visit with my Mom. He told of a special moment he had with her. Her eyes were closed and she appeared asleep. He had begun to pray. He prayed about the glories of heaven and the joy of being with God and suddenly Mom opened her eyes and said, ”Yes! I see that. Yes!” It was a very powerful moment for him and the pastor told the story with great enthusiasm. When he shouted out Mom’s enthusiastic response to the prayer, Jolie yelled, “Yeah!”
It was perfectly timed. It brought a ripple of joy to the gathered mourners. It reminded us of Mom’s new found freedom. It was just the right thing at just the right time.
There were more songs and tributes to Mom. Jolie responded enthusiastically to each offering. And then at last we sang the doxology. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,,,” Beautiful harmony, a soaring descant, and a last and final amen. It was too beautiful.
The brakes were released. In the fellowship hall there were ham buns and potato salad and fruit salad. The hospitality committee even managed to furnish some wonderful brownie bites that reminded us of Mom’s famous brownies. Church members, old neighbors, family friends, old ironing customers, and even a guy from New Mexico who had never met her, but loves me gathered around and chatted and wept and laughed. But Jolie wasn’t talking. Jolie was running wild. She whipped her chair around the room laughing and giggling and thoroughly enjoying her new found freedom. She was having a ball and nothing slowed her down. I tried to play the ‘I love you’ game with her and sing our favorite song, ‘I Went To The Animal Fair’ with her, but she was too busy running wild. New found freedom is such fun.
Mom is free, too.