Nathan found himself in a funeral home. He did not have to guess what was going on nor for whom the festivities were. Since Nathan was cremated, there was no need for a graveside ceremony. He listened from the door as the minister up front droned on in the funeral service. The man talked about the love of God, but he hardly understood what he was talking about. Still, he did get one thing right: that God loves us and he is merciful and giving, and right then and there Nathan changed his tune from accusing God of setting him up to thanking God for Mya. He felt he could hardly thank God enough.
This man also talked of perpetual light. Nathan could vouch for the light. He saw the angel and the old woman who knew all about loving God. Nathan knew that love was the key. He remembered the phrase about faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, he thought to himself. And again, he knew that was true.
After the formal service there was a receiving line where everyone who attended, most of whom were church members or childhood friends of Stephen or Susan, could pay their condolences. Nathan got in the back of the line and he thought of everything he wanted to say.
He never knew what love really was until he met Mya. His mother was bitter from her childhood days in the war. His wife found him convenient for a time, and he thought he loved her, but now he realized he really did not. He was just grabbing at what he saw as a kind face that would feed back to him what he needed to hear. When she realized he was never going to be president of the company, she dumped him. But for a minister? Well. He shrugged it off.
He thought he should apologize to Lisa. He never told his daughter about love. He never taught her because it was something he did not understand himself. That was a terribly sad thing both for him and his daughter, but he supposed it could not be helped. Even sadder was watching her perpetuate the cycle of the lack of love. She drove her husband away, scum that he was. Nathan had no doubts about that. And then she proceeded to pass the same dysfunction on to her two children.
Susan was just like her mother, getting harder and crustier every day. Her two perfect children were perfect because they did not dare step out of line. Yet Nathan had learned something about human nature in the last day or two. Human nature was very resilient. God made it so. Nathan imagined in the years to come one or both of those children would become true rebels. He only hoped and sent up a little prayer that it would not be the self-destructive kind of rebellion that lead to everyone’s heartbreak and an early grave. He hoped something good might come out of it, like a new view of life and a real chance at love.
Stephen, on the other hand, had married a wonderful girl. It was too bad he was such a pin head. He was going to lose her, Nathan had no doubt, and with her his great-grand. She was the only child of his issue that maybe had a chance for real life. God, how he wished he could be there to watch her and help her grow along the way. He wished he could be there now since now he knew what love was.
The line shuffled forward slowly and Nathan came to realize there were more people there than he imagined there would be. He had supposed that it would be a very small affair. Most of his old friends were already dead; well, just about all of them, and the few survivors were in far-away places, mostly below the Mason Dixon line in retirement communities or nursing homes.
Nathan jumped, just because he could. He was twenty-something years old and he was so glad he would never see the inside of one of those nursing homes. Maybe that suicide bomber did him a favor, and he grinned and thanked God again for yet another thing. He felt the love of God very strongly at that moment, and he loved God right back just as strongly as he could. God is good. He kept thinking that, and he wondered if that was something he could tell Lisa.
Lisa, I am all right. God is good. Don’t worry about me. I have met the most wonderful girl, make that woman, and I am going to be with her, God willing, and happy forever. To be sure, God gave her to me and she is everything I ever dreamed of. She is twenty-something, but so am I now; but you know, even if she were seven, I think I would become seven just so I could be with her.
He paused. With that thought, he watched the last of his reluctance slip away. It did not matter if they were both seven or both eighty-four. He just loved her. He just wanted to be with her, and she wanted to be with him, and that was that.
Lisa, I know I will be very happy; and he did know it. I pray that you will be happy, too. He could only pray for his daughter.
Then Nathan hit on a thought. It was not the goodness of God that was Lisa’s problem. It was her trust. It was her inability to trust God or anyone else for that matter. It was her incessant need to be in control, to never let anything be out of control, to be in charge to be sure things stayed in control, the way that she wanted them to be.
Lisa, he wanted to say, there is so much in life, in this world that we cannot understand when we are in the middle of it. There is so much we cannot control, my own demise being exhibit “A.” You can’t be in charge of death, or the weather, or the way other people think and feel. At some point you just have to let go and let God, as the Baptists say. At some point you just have to trust in a God that is even greater than I can imagine, and I am standing on the cusp of running into him. At some point, and honestly it is at all points in life, you can only do so much and then you have to trust God to work things out; and, you know? If you will just give God a chance to be in charge, if you will just let God be in control, you may be surprised, like me, when he works things out in a way that is more wonderful and incredible than you can ever dream or imagine. Please, Lisa, just give God a chance.
Nathan thought all of these things and more, but then he came to stand before his daughter. He was flabbergasted when she reached out and shook his hand. She squinted at him for a moment as if trying to place him and even asked, “Do I know you?”
Nathan startled her by kissing her on the cheek. “Just in this,” he said. “That God loves you and wants the best for you if you will let him give it to you, and your father loves you, too, and he will always love you even if he never told you so.” Then he rushed down the line without speaking to anyone else until he came to Stephen’s daughter, little Emily. He kissed her smack on the forehead. “Be good and live a good life,” he told her. “And always remember that God loves you and your great-grandfather loves you too.”
“Grandpa Nathan?” Little Emily looked up at him and he winked and ran out of there as fast as he could. He knew where Mya would be and he did not want to be late.