I occasionally do accompaniment work on the organ or piano. This past Saturday I played organ for a funeral. It was for some friends of ours, whose mom had passed away. I had never met their mother, but by the end of the funeral I felt that I knew her personally.
I had heard a few things here and there just because of our associations with our friends. Before the funeral I had heard in passing that their mother, Jackie, wasn't in good health, that sometimes she wasn't the most pleasant person to be around, that sometimes she upset her children, that her husband had it rough because she was hard to manage with her poor health. That was about it.
Then Jackie died rather unexpectedly after some surgery. During the service I learned a little bit more about her life. Apparently she had been healthy until the last 20 years of her life, when she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. For one reason or another, this disease really did a number on her. She was constantly in pain, and her extremities started to slowly die. Her feet especially gave her lots of trouble and she ended up losing one of her big toes. Because of that, she wasn't very mobile and spent a lot of time indoors or bedridden.
But what I learned as well is that Jackie was passionate about her hobby of making dolls--and these dolls were so cute! (They were displayed at the funeral) Every one of them was individually made and had so much character. If she had been healthier, she could have had quite a business, either on Etsy, partnering up with retail chains, or something of that nature. She had given many of her friends the dolls and so there were many memories told about them.
Jackie also loved her family very much, as was revealed. She would defend her only son with vigor, as he remembered, even when he may have not totally deserved it. But she was also very vigilant about making sure her children were honorable and learned lessons. As her daughter recalled, once the kids were out in the local horse park and had started a small fire, which was prohibited. She somehow saw the smoke and went out to investigate. When she saw that the incident involved her children and their friends, she came out to the park and after a severe reprimand, took them all to the fire department so they could learn the full impact of starting a fire in a field, next to a forest.
Her husband told of the time they went up to the State Park in the mountains where he had proposed to her. She had been totally taken by surprise. She had a best friend who she had known for years. At the funeral this friend learned why Jackie always loved to go up to the State Park on outings with her. It was the place where she had been proposed to! She had never suspected until then that was why Jackie always wanted to go there any chance she could. She was a closet romantic and loved her husband dearly.
We also found out that she loved beauty around her, tried to keep her home beautiful, loved spiritual things, and loved Jesus Christ and taught her children to do the same. Her youngest daughter talked about her last association with her the week that she died. She was in bed and her daughter was leaving. Jackie insisted on getting out of bed and walking her to the door when she left. She slowly and painstakingly walked each step with her, told her she loved her and that she was going to try and walk more and more. Unfortunately, that was the last time her daughter ever saw her alive.
I'm sure there were a lot of people who didn't know her before she got ill, before she suffered with all her health problems. To others, she may have seemed "out of it", "lethargic", "bedridden", "grouchy", "temperamental", or even "lazy". But when you put together the whole of her life, and understood just what she had gone through and who she was before her illness, you start to realize that she was a beautiful and strong individual, who endured many years of pain, probably just to be with those she loved a little longer.
It makes sense to withhold judgement just a little longer than usual next time we are tempted to make a swift character assessment, because everyone has a story and just because we may see one part of that story, doesn't mean we can interpret the whole of it!