“Park right there,” she said pointing to a vacant spot between two large vehicles. “Sharon parks over there and I park here.”
“Are your names on the spaces?” I asked.
“What about your pew?”
“They should be,” she said not missing a beat.
It was nice to start the morning with a few laughs after a rough couple weeks. My sweet Mama was in a car accident just before Christmas that totaled her car. After 65 years of driving with a spotless record it was time to hand over the keys. For anyone her age the loss of independence is an emotional blow.
Of all the things she could worry about I found it inspiring her first concern was how she would get to church. When I suggested she go with my in-laws, who live a few doors down from her, she balked.
“I won’t be able to take communion there.”
“Oh sure you can Mom, you’re about as Lutheran as they come.”
I said this with great confidence only to find out she couldn’t. I can’t either and I consider myself a fully indoctrinated Lutheran having been ordained as a lay minister in college. It’s legalism at its finest and nothing lights a fire under me like that—hence the detour from my own church to take my Mom to hers.
After we parked we headed to her unofficial seat. Waiting for her was Sharon her pew buddy. When she started to introduce me and struggled to remember my name I offered it with my hand, so she wouldn’t be embarrassed.
Of course this can happen to any mother but for those of us with our memory still intact it’s an issue of too many things to remember. With her it’s evidence of how cruel the aging process can be. Watching it melts my heart like candle wax. With my kids and their struggles I’ve always been able to see forward progress but the reality with aging and memory loss is regression—a word I don’t even like to even say.
Sitting in church it was hard not to think about the future with my Mom. All the possible scenarios felt as shrill as the organ music pulsing through the sanctuary. What God has preordained I don’t know but I do know her life on earth is drawing to a close. In this church she’ll want to be memorialized—with triumphant hymns and communion for all to receive. Knowing this I’m not sure how I didn’t cry my way through the sermon.
After the service I dropped her at home and went to get a cup of courage. A second cup of coffee in a day is rare for me but I needed to warm up emotionally. When I walked into the Starbuck’s three dollar bills were laid out on the ground side by side—not crumpled, folded, or in a pile but laid out. I stopped in front of them and asked everyone around if they’d dropped them. That was about six people and not a single one claimed them. I asked the barista who I’ve known for years and she was dumbfounded.
“Nobody’s even paid with cash,” she said.
Her counterpart, who’s familiar with my penny finds said, “Maybe they’re for you?”
“I don’t usually find paper money though.”
“Maybe now you do?” she said.
I stood at the foot of those dollar bills for a good 30 seconds before I could reach down and pick them up.
“What do you think it means?” I asked her.
“It’s New Year’s Eve so maybe it means you’re going to have three hundred good days next year.”
“I like that idea,” I said.
Her partner said, “But that means you’ll have 65 bad days.”
“Yeah, but that’s a great ratio of good to bad days.”
“That’s true,” she said.
In the next five minutes after getting my coffee I found three more pennies one right after the other. When I got in my car I remembered my Mom telling me after the accident, when her TV wasn’t working, that bad things happen in three’s so something else was coming. Now I wasn’t so happy about the finds.
I got home and Chase was waiting for me so I asked him what he thought finding three dollars meant. Always the insightful one he said, “Well its Christmas so I think they represent wisdom. You know the three wise men.”
In that moment these three separate thoughts collided for my penny epiphany. Wisdom tells me that in the year ahead there will be both good and bad days but the only ratio I need to remember is the size of God versus me. He is BIG and I am small—but He will do BIG things in small ways, to see me through the year.
That’s one of the ideas communion portrays. A small piece of bread and thimble of wine represent the enormous power available to me if I will just kneel down and reach for it. Perhaps this is what God wants me to remember this year with all my finds—the power of small things to meet all my needs.