A northern sun shines through my windshield, late rising over harvested fields as I head for home. Winter’s breath mercifully withdrew as we stood around Pam’s grave the day before, a small group of witnesses to her quiet life. “Dust to dust”, the pastor said before we parted ways, her ashes left in the dark embrace of the dirt behind us.
I met her decades ago, both of us fresh out of college, working in the same office for a few years before I moved away. Then the cards started coming. Every Christmas and birthday they arrived, missives filled with complaints about life, tinged with her signature sardonic humor. “Ha det”, she signed them, a nod to her Norwegian heritage. Literally, “have it good”.
She sent handmade gifts for the arrivals of each of our children. Her last gift was a crocheted blanket for our newest grandchild, finished before cancer took the feeling from her fingers.
I didn’t know her – not really. Not until we moved closer and the cancer came. So I visited as often as I could to cook and run errands, sharing meals at her table laden with violets by the western window. We sat silently together in the chemo room as I watched the color fade from her thin face. She sewed colorful hats with big flowers to cover her baldness. I trimmed the scraggly tufts around her neck.
As the daylight waned we would sit in her dim living room, talking. She wasn’t sure about heaven at first, so I spoke of the overwhelming love waiting to wrap her in its embrace. Of light and incomprehensible beauty. Of faith not in creed or ritual, but a Person who looked on her with tenderness.
Her messages started coming more often then – complaints, jokes, news clippings. But they also revealed a softening spirit, sharing more comments and questions about heaven. Peace bolstered the edges of her careful preparations. I sent gifts, messages, pictures of anything and everything to lift her spirits. Reminded her of the beautiful land she was approaching.
And then suddenly, she was gone.
I drive east, into the rising sun, watching the farmland of her home gradually give way to the forests of mine. Ahead of me, the road gently unfurls toward an unseen future. Behind me, Pam’s body lays planted in the darkness, waiting. Above me, she dances, her spirit reaping what her faith gradually sowed.
Ha det, Pam. I’m glad that now you truly “have it good”.