“Save a place for me”. That was the text I received last week from one of my Bible study sistas as I was getting ready to leave for my friend, Sue’s memorial service. Those 5 words have a story to tell. They imply belonging and acceptance to those they are spoken between.
“Be there for me”, is what it really means.
It was almost surreal that our darling friend was gone. A sudden return of cancer claimed her in less than 8 weeks. I drove to the church numb.
The narthex of the church was decorated for a women’s conference, which was going to be held the following day, and everything was cottage white and shabby chic. Our friend would have been so pleased!
Surrounded by dear ones and out of town family we gathered to worship and remember the life of a remarkable woman. I sat with several friends, including the one who had sent me the text earlier. At one point I looked down the pew and realized that every woman sitting there was a Bible study sista. It was if we were there together to say goodbye to the first of us to see Jesus.
Sistas. It’s a common term used in women’s Bible studies across our country. It’s born out of common love: for Christ and for each other. It’s a bond that is formed when you invite others into your world.
Authentically. Nothing withheld.
In the family room where we gathered every Tuesday morning, we were doing more than studying our Bibles…we were grafting each other into our lives.
No piece of good news was too small to celebrate…birthdays, lost pounds, new jobs, college acceptances, good checkups and new recipes. We also shared our kid’s triumphs and disappointments, our marriage struggles, our fears for the future and our disappointment of opportunities not taken. One wished she had had more children, another was trying to reconcile with her estranged mother, one had the scars from a bitter divorce, and bankruptcy loomed for another and several dealt with almost crippling anxiety.
This was a “no mask” zone. Not the usual smile, open your Bible and “would you like another piece of cake” group.
It was a place where we could be real, show our ugly parts (and pasts) and know we would still be loved.
True sister love. Sistas.
I tend to think about heaven a little more after someone I love leaves the planet. I don’t know what it will really be like, but I do know that it will be mostly great because Jesus is there. But it’ll also be great because of getting to see loved ones who have gone before me. Each time a dear one departs for my true “home”, heaven becomes a little sweeter.
That sounds simplistic, I know. Devoid of all the lofty theological discussions and implications. But in times of grief-simple works best.
That day at the memorial service we weren’t coming to say “good-bye” to Sue. What we really meant was:
Save a place for me.