Just a few words they say. It’s true, just a few words may be enough. Wise King Solomon said that well-chosen words are like apples of gold on a silver tray. Words can be water in the desert. The prophet Isaiah said words are to, “speak a word in season to him who is weary.” The right words can lift you up when you are down. The right words can set a balance to those things in life which are off-kilter. They can speak truth to power. Words that are a part of holy canon, can illuminate the paths of our life. King David expressed this in Psalm 119; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”.
I learned the importance of the right words when I had to write eulogies for both my parents. If you only had a few words, they had better be the right ones. I guess the litmus test, is if the words matter, if they last. There are only a few which have mattered to me. Those are words of encouragement.
My mom had a funny relationship with her neighbour. He was a postman, and when my dad died and she was alone in the house, he cast an eye on her. Things like snowfalls were a problem because my mom had by that point suffered two heart attacks and was not in good condition. The mysterious postman we heard about, stepped in here and there and shovelled out her walkway. Not to be outdone, she walked over the occasional pie when she baked, by way of thanks.
In some strange way, such circumstances tie people together. They were a generation apart, and never destined to become best of friends, still there was something recognized between them. I think from the comings and goings of life, the postman perhaps saw things he had loved in his own mother. His gesture to shovel out the snow was an unsolicited kindness. It was a nod to things he saw in my mom’s character. She wasn’t just another old lady. She had qualities that shone out beyond her physical limitations. She was one of those people whose contributions in life may have diminished with age, but they were out there just the same. The children who had long flown the nest. The postman knew anecdotally at least, that there were seven. That old lady was deceptive in appearances, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than was immediately apparent.
And so it was that the postman saw some things that other people might have missed. He was one of those rare and unusual people in life who both noticed, and cared. In some neighbourly way, he hoped that my mother got her due for her good and enduring qualities, still apparent in old age.
When my mom died, writing the eulogy was a daunting task, searching for words adequate to convey what her life had meant. A summation of events, ties, and accomplishments. Just a few words. Like wise Solomon I sat with my pen in the lamplight looking for those golden apples on a silver tray.
During the blur of the funeral, in the swath of people passing by and saying rote things, someone pressed a note into my hand. On the crumpled paper was scrawled, “You did a good job, your mom would be so proud”. It was the mysterious postman. Perhaps shy, he had written down his message in lieu of speech.
If I had just a few words to choose from a lifetime of words, I would walk into eternity holding that little piece of paper. It is the power of encouragement, the importance of a small gesture, in moments when you are weakened or down, or seeking direction. Just a few words have the power to crush, to heal, to sustain.
Just a few words. If I had just a few words to outlast me, they would be of that variety, words that lifted up. Words that healed. Words that set the world in order. In the end it is only a few words that will matter, words of affirmation. Just a few words from God himself would be enough to take me into eternity. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” would do.
Just a few words would be enough to tide me over.