My father-in-law passed away on December 4. While he had been ill for some time, we did not expect him to pass so soon. Under the care of remarkable hospice and hospital staff, he died shortly after 7:00 am. The next few hours were filled with tears, hugs, phone calls, the kindness of our ministers and a bag of Egg McMuffins. With our iPhone batteries failing, we returned home from the hospital early that afternoon. Sitting on our front porch was a large, wrapped basket.
The basket is part of the ministry of our church. A group of women who call themselves "Partners in Missions" (we just say "PIM") assemble the grief baskets. I'm told that they keep around six on hand. My wife, Rejeana, is part of PIM. She stared at the porch and commented that she never considered we might one day be the recipient of one of the grief baskets she helped prepare.
I didn't pay any attention to the basket and had no clue what it contained. There were many things to do — it is amazing the things that have to be done ahead of a funeral.
The next day, we were still reeling from the shock of the loss, and realized we were going to have guests dropping by. People from church were bringing cakes, soups, sandwiches and other goodies, and relatives were traveling in ahead of the funeral. Our house was selected as the family hub. So naturally I started a grocery list... "honey, we're nearly out of toilet paper. I'll go to the store and get some."
Rejeana was across the house and yelled, "no need - it's in the grief basket."
Sure enough, there were several rolls of toilet paper (and they were good quality, not that thin stuff found in hotel bathrooms). A couple of hours later I went to make a pot of coffee and noticed we were were low on coffee and creamer. "I'm still gonna have to make a store run — we need coffee and creamer," I told Rejeana. She just grinned and said, "nope, it's in the grief basket." Sure enough, a bag of Starbucks Sumatra dark roast (yummy) and Coffee Mate creamer were in the basket, along with various sweetners, paper plates, cups, plastic utensils and much more.
Over the next few days we received many guests, welcomed relatives, and shared tasty meals gifted to us by members of Highland Hills Baptist Church and Rejeana's coworkers at Wesleyan College. If we found ourselves needing anything, a chorus of voices would proclaim, "it's in the grief basket!"
We all experience loss and grief at some point in our lives. There's little that can be said to help the pain. But with time, the comfort of family, church and friends — and a grief basket, we experience God's grace and care, and it is enough.