One of my favorite songwriters and worship leaders, Robin Mark from northern Ireland, wrote a song about 15 years ago called "Days of Elijah." This is the song that is most requested in our car--with the girls getting out their pretend microphones, clapping, doing the hand motions, singing, and generally going bananamonkey over. And it has to be repeated at least three times, if not more. This is the song that every Sunday, Lucy and I scan the church bulletin to see if we're singing, then high five each other if we are. I've been known to take Elaine out of the nursery so she could come in and sing with us.
Robin says the idea for the song came after watching a year in review on TV--conflict in Ireland, genocide in Rwanda--and wondering what kind of days we are living in and if God is still in control. As an answer, God gave him "Days of Elijah," which he wrote in 30 minutes.
The first verse says:
These are the days of Elijah
declaring the word of the Lord
These are the days of your servant, Moses
righteousness being restored
And though these are days of great trial
of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert, crying,
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord!"
And the chorus is:
Behold, He comes!
Riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet call
Lift your voice!
It's the year of jubilee
And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. We all drove out the two hours to the cemetery in Wisconsin. It's a small, quiet, sweet cemetery, filled with all sorts of my ancestors and relatives, along with their friends and neighbors.
The day was almost an exact carbon copy of one year ago--sunny, warm, blue skies with puffy white clouds. Last year we stood under the canopy provided by the funeral home and gathered around my mom's casket. It was just our family, and we said a few words and sang a song or two. All the while we stood there, I didn't cry, I just kept thinking, "She's not here. She's not here." I couldn't bear to think of doing the regular tradition of throwing a handful of dirt on the coffin, so the girls and I scattered handfuls of rose petals over it instead, and as I scattered mine, I whispered: "Mama: released!"
Yesterday was much the same, though there was no tent or hearse or casket, just grass and trees and sunshine and quiet and peace. We put down flowers on Mom's gravestone, which now says "June 16, 2010" on it. Dad said, "I know these flowers won't last a day, but your mother wouldn't like anything but the real thing," and I said, "Exactly. I can hear her voice saying, 'Please don't put any artificial flowers on my grave. It's tacky!'"
We all stood around for a bit, and Dad read a short letter. Instead of putting down small white stones as is the custom for the first year, we laid white seashells on her tombstone since she loved the beach and collecting shells. As we left, with the wind rustling the grass and blowing the trees and the June cottonwood swirling around us like summer flurries, I kept hearing "She's not here. She's not here."
The girls and I walked around the cemetery for a little bit, looking at Civil War veterans and WWI and II veterans, mothers who died young, grandmas who lived into their 90s, unnamed infants, and 4-year-old children.
Lucy said, "Mom, it's hard for me to imagine how Manga's up there, with just her spirit, but not her body."
"Me too," I told her. "But when Jesus comes back, then our souls will be reunited with our bodies again."
"And we'll come busting up out of these graves!" Elaine added excitedly, hopping over a stone.
Over the past year, I will admit--I've had a hard time picturing my mom where she is now, in heaven. What is she doing? What is she thinking? Can she see us? Does she know what we're doing down here? Does she miss us?"
I have a much easier time picturing her as she was, washing up after dinner or buried in a book. I look out our guestroom window and hope to see her car in the driveway, or I open up the closet door, see her coat and purse hanging there, and imagine for a moment that she's just in the next room. I can hear her say, "Let's put the kettle on and have a cup of tea." I can picture her that way much more than as some celestial-type of being now. And I miss her. Oh, I miss her. She's not here.
However, I have no problem, especially when I'm listening to "Days of Elijah," imagining that trumpet sound and one day seeing Jesus, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, returning in glory and getting ready to bust us out of those graves. For though I have not seen Him, I love Him, I trust Him, and I'm filled with "a glorious, inexpressible joy."
Somehow, I think that's just how my mom would want it anyhow.