My friend was a champion, and you knew he loved you from the core of his soul. He observed propriety and never broke the social graces of his generation. He was respectful, and in so being, commanded respect in every aspect of his life. In short, Johnny was a man of his word, generous to those in need, and an emissary of his Lord and Savior. He was a stellar person, and I cherished our friendship.
When his dear wife called me the other day, I had no idea that he was mortally ill. I asked her how they were doing, and she replied, “Well, not so well. Johnny is very ill and has been placed in hospice.” As a funeral director, I knew that Johnny would not recover from whatever illness he was suffering. My heart was broken for my dear friends.
As I hung up the phone, I looked at my watch to check the time. It seemed forever before the clock struck 5:00 PM; the time I could lock the doors and drive to the city where Johnny lay in his hospital bed. As I entered his room, I saw my dear friends. Johnny, lying in his hospital bed, and Freda, his wife, standing beside him. My heart broke from the pain on her face. My breath caught in my chest. I wanted to cry, to plead to heaven for his life, and to express without reserve the pain within my soul as I saw my friend labor to breathe.
Just then, Freda raised her eyes to mine. Our gazes locked, and in that instant, I knew that I could not allow my composure falter. My gentle friend Freda needed me to be strong. She needed to know that I would be there to shore her up in the weakness that would come when Johnny drew his last breath. She needed me to be both funeral director and friend.
Freda greeted me with kindness and love. Her soft sweet voice and her beautiful dewy eyes brought comfort to my sad and broken soul. She hugged me, and I could feel her tremble under the weight of what was happening to her beloved. We spoke about her immediate needs, what would be happening during the next few days, and how things would transpire once Johnny died.
As we left the hospice center, my husband and I went out to dinner. We sat outside for patio dining as I felt as though I could not sit in a crowded restaurant filled with people celebrating life’s glorious events. We spoke of our friends and the changes Freda would experience without Johnny beside her, protecting her, and providing for her. We finished our meal, and we traveled home to begin preparations for what inevitably would break my heart. I had told Freda that I would prepare a hospitality basket for her stay at the hospice center, and the following morning just as I was putting on the finishing touches, the phone rang. As the hospice nurse announced his death, a tear streamed down my cheek. I asked about Freda; she had already left for home. I dropped the ribbon I was tying for the hospitality basket and immediately changed my task. My husband and I loaded the necessary items into our hearse and drove to the hospice center to call for Johnny.
Today Johnny lies in state in my funeral home. He looks dapper. I think he would be pleased.
Freda just came by. She is now alone and will face heart-wrenching grief without the love and assistance of her beloved beside her. It will be a tough road for her, but she will survive it. Jonny's example of generosity, love, and strength will compel her where she now fears weakness. The hope of their glorious reunion will keep her unwaveringly focused and shore her up until her time comes.
Until then, Freda will continue to be the gentle Southern woman that she is, sharing tremendous grace and generosity toward others. She will share her love, respect, and kindness for those less fortunate than herself, and she will love her beloved until the day comes that they are reunited. Of this, I am sure, because I have been blessed with two wonderful friends that have been an amazing example of Christ’s love in my life.
Tomorrow, Johnny will be buried. His body will rest in his grave beside an empty space. A space reserved for his beloved Freda to reunite with him, when her time comes, on the other side of life.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.