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MOM'S LAST LAUGH by Robin Lee Shope

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 around  her 
as she cradled their child. 
All so deeply grieving, no one noticed I sat

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 solemnness 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."