Loss, Comfort, & Dave

My mother passed away late last week.

Since then, I can’t stop thinking about a man who attended her visitation: a man called Dave.

The church was crowded with people.  My mother was much-loved and a ministered to many in her rural community and so the aisles and pews had filled to the brim with people sharing their stories and memories of her.  It feels almost unfair that we, the bereaved, should reap the fruit of her life lived in love—and yet it’s tremendously comforting to hear how she impacted so many people.   

Dave stood out from the crowds.

He was unkempt, and different from everyone there. The only man not wearing a suit or a polo shirt or his Sunday best, he stood in line waiting to offer his condolences in a sweatshirt full of holes, filthy oil-stained jeans, and a faded cap he clutched in both hands.  I smelled him before he even moved up in the line: body odor and cigarettes.  He had come, it seemed, alone.

I racked my brain to place him as he moved up in the line.   I knew everyone else there.

“You’re her daughter?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I said, and before I could introduce myself, hoping to get his name, he immediately pulled me into a hug.  I hugged him back awkwardly, looking at my dad over his head to see if he knewthis man.  Dad gave a helpless shrug. 

Dave ended the hug but would not release my hand.  “We appreciate you,” I told him.  “We so appreciate you coming.”

He nodded.  And his eyes filled with tears.  “I’m Dave,” he said.  “She sent me a Christmas card, every year.  She sent me a birthday card, every year.”

He repeated it twice before he released my hand and went up to visit the casket.

Dave didn’t stay for the funeral.  And it wasn’t until after the burial, as we spoke with a group of old, old friends, that I mentioned him.  One of the men, a tall mechanic who knows every single soul in town, nodded in recognition.  “Yeah, that’s Dave.”

“Who is he?” I wondered.  “How’d he know Mom?”

The man shook his head slowly.  “Don’t know how she got his name,” he said.  “Maybe just heard of him from a friend of a friend.  He’s always lived alone.  He don’t mess with nobody.  Not the real friendly type, you know?”

I nodded.

“But,” the man continued, “once she knew his address she sent him two cards a year, for birthday and Christmas.  And Dave’d tell everybody he saw those was the only two cards he got from anybody, all year.  He told me about them.”

The memory of Dave has stayed with me, ever since.

My mother did so much.  She baked and sent cards and visited and worked with children and ministered to every need she heard about in her small community.  She impacted so many lives, and I know this because those lives told me, showed up to pay their respects and give the love back.

No matter how prepared you think you are for a loss, it still hits like a truck.  The curious joy of a Christian’s life well-spent is that those who show up with their affection and their joy, who testify to what your loved one meant to them, somehow become the greater part of memory instead of all the sad things. 

But for Dave, what tipped the scale was two cards. 

I don’t know why he lived his life pretty much on his own or what circumstances led to it.  I don’t know his background or his story.  But two cards were enough to bring him to a funeral home to pay his respects.  Two cards meant enough that he talked about them all over town.  Two cards made a difference in his life so significant it reduced him to tears.

Love lived out can be so very small.

And in truth, it is small acts of love lived out, over and over, that accumulate to change the world.  Steadiness over time.  Consistency.  The proof of deep affection in a thousand small gestures.  It is how I know I was loved as a daughter.  And it is how Dave knew he was loved, too.

I’m tired and sad and sad and tired.   Something has changed, with the loss of my mom, that will always be changed.  I know exactly where she is and I still miss her.  I’m a little afraid of my “normal” life because that’s where, I think, the loss will begin to make itself felt even more.  And I know one day I will feel more like myself again, even if part of me doesn’t really ever want to feel like myself at all.

But as I shuffle through papers and try to get my dad settled and tend to the thousand small administrative tasks that come with this process, I am trying to keep my eye on what matters.  And in the sheaf of thick papers by where Mom used to sit, I found a list of name and dates—her birthday card list.  Dave’s name was on it.

I grabbed it, and stuffed it in my bag.

I can’t bear the thought of him not receiving a Christmas card this year.  

Love starts small.  Sometimes it stays small.  But in the end, God turns those small acts into glory.


6 thoughts on “Loss, Comfort, & Dave

  1. I am so very sorry for your loss and very glad for your mother’s gain. As I was read your piece, I was holding my breath hoping that the card giving would continue and my hope was founded. God and your mother are very pleased I’m sure.


  2. I know your mother will be alive and well in your heart as in heaven for the rest of your life on earth. Your heart and so many more! I remember my grief when my mother went to be with the Lord. Thank you for sharing yours.


  3. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. I’m so glad you are continuing the tradition with Dave – and that you reminded us love isn’t usually, shown through grandiose gestures. Rather, it’s the small, but thoughtful things. And of course, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Sending love and prayers to you. 🙏🤍

    Liked by 1 person

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