In 2006, I dropped out of life.
For months, I retreated into our family’s story to care for my sixty-seven-year-old dad, a post-bone marrow transplant cancer patient. The church we attended at the time was big, but we were small—a family of five among a multitude of others. We didn’t know too many people, I reasoned, so we probably wouldn’t be missed. But through a friend outside the church, word of what our family was doing leaked to the congregation.
And the church ladies came.
One by one over many weeks, those ladies drove to our house and climbed our front steps to drop off tuna noodle casserole, fried chicken, tater tot hotdish, burritos, rice dishes, salads, cakes, brownies, garlic bread, and more. Twenty-six meals in all.
And each bite tasted like love.
Sometimes the ladies called first to let us know they were on their way. Sometimes they knocked on our door to signal their deliveries. Sometimes they deposited their edible gifts—without a word—into the designated cooler on our porch and tiptoed away.
No one left her name. No one paused for a thank you. And no one expected anything of us, strangers to them, caring for our immunosuppressed loved one.
Even though our three girls were tiny and Dad’s care was intense, we didn’t need the meals, I told myself. Those meals should be for those struggling more than we were. Feeling undeserving, I phoned the warm meal ministry coordinator to thank her.
“God must think you really need it,” she said. “The response has been overwhelming.”
No sound made it past the lump in my throat. Instead, I nodded into the receiver, absorbing all of their love through the phone lines.
Because our culture says to, I think of romantic love each Valentine’s Day. But only for a few seconds. Then I remember those ladies who delivered casseroles instead of counsel, salads instead of sermons, and homemade desserts instead of stories of their own pain.
Love. It’s everything, which goes without saying. But what I learned from those church ladies was that love does without saying too.
… let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.