My mind drifted to the days following her passing, and I remembered something that brought light to the darkness of grief. I had blogged about it and I think it's appropriate to share again, in memory of the beautiful, loving woman I proudly call "My Mom".
Anyway ... mission accomplished. Closet empty, boxes filled, her blouses, slacks and jackets hanging on the clothes rod and on a portable clothes rack. After loading the van we headed to a local homeless shelter that housed both men and women, as some of her jackets and sweatshirts could be used by either gender. I located a volunteer and before he followed me to the van, he unlocked the closet where clothing donations were stored. I looked in and chuckled. I told him the closet wasn't big enough. You see, my mom never discarded anything (remember, she had 700 beanie babies) and close to the end, she would order something that she never had a chance to wear. The volunteer must have thought I was exaggerating until I opened the van doors. He went back into the shelter calling out for some of the residents to help with the unloading.
Several men jumped at the opportunity. As I began unloading some of the smaller boxes a man approached me. He was unkempt and toothless. At first, I hate to admit, I felt the urge the turn around and run. He took the box I was holding and put it on one of the food carts they were using for transport. I thanked him and with an embarrassed look on his face, he said, "I wasn't always like this". While both of us continued to unload boxes, he proceeded to tell me of his many attempts to get clean and sober, each relapse causing him to lose more, until nothing was left. Proudly he exclaimed his most recent period of sobriety was the longest yet and he truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I congratulated him and said I would pray for his continued success. I told him I too struggled with addiction and shared a little of my story. As I was sharing, I realized how blessed I was. Although we shared the same affliction, the consequences he suffered were much more severe. All I could think of was, "There but for the Grace of God go I."
The van was empty, job done. The shelter volunteer and residents offered thanks and wheeled the carts to the storage area. I started towards the driver's side of the van. The man I was chatting with came back out of the storage area and asked if he could give me a hug. It wasn't a little one ... it was an extended, long, bear hug. He backed up and with a toothless smile said, "that's what the Holy Spirit feels like", and walked away. As I started the drive home I looked in the rear view mirror and saw nothing but a few stray hangers hanging from clothes rod. But instead of feeling empty and sad leaving so many reminders of my mother behind, I was enveloped in peace and comfort. Yes, my friend, that's what the Holy Spirit feels like.