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For Mary

I noticed when she opened up her palms to receive communion that there was a blister on the inside of her thumb. That particular blister is synonymous with yard work. It is the place you blister when you are pruning bushes, cutting weeds, pushing a mower, or raking. I wanted to bend down and kiss the blister, feeling that the pain of what she has endured these past several months was embodied in the sore on her hand. It was sacramental, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual journey that she has walked through. Her husband, a beautiful man who built a house out in the country, died earlier this year. The blister brought an image to my mind of her standing outside the house alone, tackling some overgrown weeds or hedges, and feeling the sting of widowhood in her eyes from sweat and memory.

I have a distinct affinity for widows doing yard work, and even typing about it makes me feel a little anxious. My mother, who worked 60 hours a week, was widowed at 35. In order to get the lawn done, and still have time to grocery shop, cook, and clean the house with five young children running around, she would have to rise about 6:00 on Saturdays to get started. She would start at the grocery because there wasn’t a crowd, and get it all put away and then start on the lawn about 10:30, just as Nashville temperatures climb into the 90’s. The whole endeavor was exasperated by the fact that she had a terrible lawn mower. My memory as a child was watching her yank on the cord that was supposed to start it and it never working. She would be out there working up a sweat before the first blade was cut and already in a pretty bad mood. I hated it for her. I hated that she had to mow her own grass on top of all the other things on her list because she didn’t have a husband and all the neighbors could see her out there being incompetent. I hated they couldn’t see how amazingly graceful she was handling all of it by herself. I hated that we didn’t have enough money to buy a working mower, and I really hated that her husband had died and left her with the damn grass to cut.

“The body of Christ,” I said to the woman standing at the altar this morning. I said it with nothing but love for her. I didn’t feel like I was giving her the body of Christ as much as I thought she really was the body of Christ. She had the marks on her hands to prove that she loved another soul and had laid down her life for the sake of that love. She was walking the path alone with grace, the mourners all moving on. She had buried her heart and then stood out in his field with his ashes under a hot Nashville day and kept working until the blister gave.