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Ann

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Consumed by my loss, I didn't notice the hardness of the pew where I sat.

I was at the funeral of my dearest friend -- my mother.

She finally had lost her long battle with cancer. The hurt was so intense;

I found it hard to breathe at times. Always supportive, Mother clapped loudest

at my school plays, held a box of tissues while listening to my first heartbreak,

comforted me at my father's death, encouraged me in college, and prayed

for me my entire life.

When mother's illness was diagnosed, my sister had a new baby and

my brother had recently married his childhood sweetheart, so it fell on me,

the 27-year-old middle child without entanglements, to take care of her.

I counted it an honor. "What now, Lord?" I asked sitting in church.

My life stretched out before me as an empty abyss. My brother sat stoically

with his face toward the cross while clutching his wife's hand. My sister sat

slumped against her husband's shoulder, his arms aro und her as she cradled

their child. All so deeply grieving, no one noticed I sat alone.

My place had been with our mother, preparing her meals, helping her walk,

taking her to the doctor, seeing to her medication, reading the Bible

together. Now she was with the Lord. My work was finished, and I was alone.

I heard a door open and slam shut at the back of the church. Quick footsteps

hurried along the carpeted floor. An exasperated young man looked around

briefly and then sat next to me. He folded his hands and placed them on his

lap. His eyes were brimming with tears. He began to sniffle. "I'm late," he explained,

though no explanation was necessary.

After several eulogies, he leaned over and commented, "Why do they keep calling

Mary by the name of 'Margaret?'"

"Because that was her name, Margaret. Never Mary. No one called her 'Mary,'"

I whispered. I wondered why this person couldn't have sat on the other side

of the church He interrupted my grieving with his tears and fidgeting.

Who was this stranger anyway?

"No, that isn't correct," he insisted, as several people glanced over at us whispering,

"Her name is Mary, Mary Peters."

"That isn't who this is."

"Isn't this the Lutheran church?"

"No, the Lutheran church is across the street."

"Oh."

"I believe you're at the wrong funeral, Sir."

The solemnest of the occasion mixed with the realization of the man's mistake

bubbled up inside me and came out as laughter. I cupped my hands over my

face, hoping it would be interpreted as sobs.

The creaking pew gave me away. Sharp looks from other mourners only made the

situation seem more hilarious.

I peeked at the bewildered, misguided man seated beside me. He was laughing, too,

as he glanced around, deciding it was too late for an uneventful exit.

I imagined Mother laughing.

At the final "Amen," we darted out a door and into the parking lot.

"I do believe we'll be the talk of the town," he smiled. He said his name was

Rick and since he had missed his aunt's funeral, asked me out for a cup of coffee.

That afternoon began a lifelong journey for me with this man who attended the

wrong funeral, but was in the right place. A year after our meeting, we were

married at a country church where he was the assistant pastor. This time we

both arrived at the same church, right on time.

In my time of sorrow, God gave me laughter.

In place of loneliness, God gave me love.

This past June we celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary. Whenever

anyone asks us how we met, Rick tells them, "Her mother and my Aunt Mary

introduced us, and it's truly a match made in heaven."

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