I almost missed it, but it’s been one of those weeks, and the very last proverbial bump-in-the-road is a 2-inch incision with eleven stitches across the back of my shoulder. Rest and don’t get hot and sweaty, the doctor tells me. Down here at the edge of the hot and humid glades, the only way for that to happen is to stay indoors at home. I willingly agree to obey.
But a party is a party, and we’d said that we’d be there, and though summer afternoon storms rumble in the distance, and I tell Louis that maybe we should just stay home, he disagrees; so we drive to the city, through torrents of rain, and in the end, I couldn’t be more grateful.
We aren’t the first, but we do arrive early, and our beautiful hostess with her four little ones add final decorative touches to a room she’s transformed from ordinary to festive. Helium-filled balloons float as centerpieces over the red-gingham table cloths covering nearly two dozen large round tables, and a taco bar with pitchers of sweet tea, lemonade, and water are set up along one wall.
At the opposite end of the room, love-letters from family and friends to our hostess’ husband are clipped to a string with clothespins draped along the wall. I laugh at the letter from his college roommate and choke back tears at the one from his parents. We’re offered paper to write our own notes and to add them to the string of letters. I only wish I’d known to give it more thought.
Our hostess calmly directs her young children to help her finish cleaning up and to move the baby’s toys out of the way, and she greets each guest as they arrive. She’s glowing radiant at the joy of it all.
It’s clear she’s been busy for days – planning this party for her husband ’s birthday, cooking and preparing for the taco bar since the day before. She’s given thoughtful attention to the sweetest details that both honor her husband and serve her guests.
We fill our plates and find a place at a table while music mingles with the laughter and play of children and a slide show is projected on the large screens that hang from the corners of the room. At just the right moment, teenagers serve birthday cake to each of us at our tables, and our hostess invites us to watch a video she’d recorded with the help of a friend. It’s simply the sweetest thing.
With gentleness, poise and grace, she speaks through the video to honor her husband – to recognize the accomplishments he’s much too humble to tell us about on his own, so that we who know and love him, too, can more fully appreciate the man of God that he is. She tells us how he’s helped her to trust in a big God and inspires her to do big things. She only shares the very best that she sees in him – and we are in tears at the beauty of it all.
It’s like a memorial – with a slideshow and eulogies and laughter and tears, and fellowship and food around big tables, but the man we’re honoring is right here with us, and I wonder why we wait for people to die to honor them like this.
“I must try and cultivate an eye for life’s mercies…
And life, while it has its ugly swamps, its vile weeds, and its sharp thorns,
has always its fair flowers to charm the eye with their beauty, or to fill the air with their fragrance…”
~ Rev. John Flowers Serjeant
Cultivating an eye for life’s mercies – as I hope to do with my camera – means so much more than seeing the beauty around me. It means opening my eyes to the good and worthy in those around me. It means believing in them and loving them enough to look past the thorns to see the flowers – to lift them up, to notice the best, to make much of and honor them.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:9,10, “Let love be genuine….Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”