I wailed as my mom drove the two of us through the Montreat Gate. “I don’t want to go through that gate without Mimi on the other side!” I moaned between breathless sobs. “I know, baby. I don’t either. But we can do this,” Mama replied. We had joined my uncle and cousin to form a circle of earthly witnesses around Mimi’s body as she drew her last breath in this world just a couple hours before.
I stumbled into Mimi’s house…my other home for all 31, almost 32 years of my life. I could not control the salty springs that poured from my eyes as the wind slammed the screen door behind me like it always did. I walked through the house and tried to soak it all in before people started making inevitable changes. I desperately took pictures, wanting to memorize how things had been for the majority of my life.
I took my 21-week pregnant body to her bathroom and noticed her hairbrush, perched upon the countertop and her glass for rinsing, still with water in it. Her hand towel still had evidence of where she wiped her mouth after brushing her teeth. I crumbled into her bed and wrapped myself in her covers, longing for her to say, “Scoot over, let me scratch your back,” like she did when I’d spend the night as a little girl. I made my pilgrimage from there to the chair she’d led me sit in to watch T.V. in her room and then to her main chair…the blue rocking recliner in the den, right by the phone. I longed for her to rock me herself, but I had to rock my own self that day, in her worn out lapless chair, with bars and springs poking into my body, reminding me of her absence.
It didn’t take long for things to start changing. Mimi wasn’t around to be sure everything was put just so in her home of over 50 years.
The curtains were still open as the blaring sun came pouring in, with no evidence of her daily orders of, “Do something for me…close those curtains. No, there’s more than one panel, pull them together. Thank you.”
A return trip to her bathroom and the wrong hand towels were already hanging. No one could have known that except for Mimi. She had a place for everything.
The garage door was stuck halfway.
A light bulb sizzled out.
The shower had a major problem.
And her red purse was left behind, right by her worn out blue rocking chair.
Two days after she died, the house was full of family and it was time to go to the funeral home for her viewing.
I moved off the couch, headed for her purse with the words, “Mimi, don’t worry, I’ve got your purse,” perched upon my tongue to holler to my forgetful grandmother, who was forever searching for her purse, no matter how close to her nose it may have been.
I broke down crying again. The words weren’t meant to come out.
My other cousin said she had been thinking about her purse, too, and how it symbolized all that Mimi left behind. She would never go anywhere on this earth without her purse. But stepping into eternity, she did.
We paused a few moments to think about that and perhaps to ask our own selves, “What will we leave behind?”
I think that’s a good question to ask: “What will I leave behind?”
In the end, it doesn’t quite matter whether the right towels are placed in the right bathroom or whether the curtains are pulled just so. What matters are the investments in what is left behind.
The phone rang off the hook after Mimi died; mostly with charities she had made small pledges to through the years. She sometimes gave too frequently, some would argue, with the hope of giving more as she said, “Well, I’ve given all I can give this year, but keep me on your list and call me back next year.” It was our duty to ask them to finally remove her from the list because she was no longer here to give.
It wasn’t just financial investments that Mimi left behind. It was more than that.
It was investments with her time.
It was investments with her prayers, none of which will ever expire.
It was investments of inbound and outbound phone calls.
It was investments of note writing.
It was investments of note taking.
It was investments of reading.
It was investments of shared wisdom.
It was investments of hugs, back scratches, tear wiping, and rock-a-byeing.
It was investments of cooking.
It was investments of home making.
It was investments of observing.
It was investments of leading.
It was investments of supporting.
It was investments of making.
It was investments of mending.
It was investments of laughing.
It was investments of crying.
It was investments of affirmation.
It was investments of firm correction.
It was investments of listening.
It was investments of talking.
It was investments of a million I-love-yous and I-love-you-the-bests.
Heavenly work, deposited in people…those were Mimi’s investments. That is what she left behind.
Many of her investments will yield an eternal return.
What are you leaving behind?
When it’s time for someone to view all that you left behind, what will they see?
Will they just see a bunch of stuff, or will they see the real stuff of life?
“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:53-56