Healthy Habits

Sweet Endings

“Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:10 by Joanna McGee Bradford

I yanked the cookbook from the shelf and slammed it onto the kitchen counter. The small binder bulged with index cards and folded pieces of paper tucked into plastic sleeves. Mama’s pound cake recipe must be here! No family or church gathering was complete without her signature dessert. Thinking the card might be misfiled, I started at the beginning. Appetizers. Salads. Main Dishes. Finally, desserts. Five minutes later, nothing. Just like the last three times. With a sigh, I returned the book to its place. 

My gaze rested on the heavy bowl on the shelf above. I licked my lips as if tasting the sweet, creamy batter it had once held. We had buried Mama three days earlier. Her death hit hard, coming on the heels of my brother’s only ten months earlier. Everyone seemed to be slipping away. I needed something to hold, so I intended to make a scrapbook and include Mama’s handwritten recipe card. 

Whether it was a recipe or a greeting card, Mama always wrote a sweet ending. “To a loving daughter… I thank God for you…”How I longed to see those words and let the remnants of her love seep into my soul! I had scoured every cookbook several times and rooted through her things in the days following the funeral. I checked the clock. It was after midnight. Exhausted, I trudged up the stairs and climbed into bed. 

I fell into a restless sleep before awaking about three a.m. feeling spiritually empty. I always started the day with quiet time and prayer. But not in the middle of the night! I tried to go back to sleep. Instead, my mind flooded with thoughts about Mama. I threw back the covers and slid out of bed. 

My husband and son were sleeping soundly as I headed across the hall to the spare bedroom. When we had moved into the house, I read my Bible and prayed in the basement laundry room. A couple of years earlier, I converted the bedroom into my sacred space. But that morning I felt pulled toward the basement. I padded down the steps to the laundry room. 

I unrolled my exercise mat and plopped down onto the concrete floor in front of the washer and dryer. Soon deep wails rose from my bosom as I wrapped my arms around myself. Through blurred vision, I spied my father’s old trunk a few feet away, tucked between the furnace and a bookcase. Inside I had stashed pictures, school records and other remembrances. And obituaries. No, no! I’m not opening that thing! I knew that I would slide down the slippery slope of depression. Finally, I decided that I might as well jump into the pit, so I scooted over to the trunk.

When I opened the heavy lid, I spied the white box that held my wedding invitations from twenty years ago. Why had I kept it? Opening it, my heart thumped at the first card. “A Birthday is a Blessing…” On the inside, my gaze landed on the familiar cursive script. “To my daughter… I don’t have money to send you, so I send you my love…”

I rocked back, tears rolling down my cheeks as I read card after card. All contained Mama’s sweet endings, written to me. 

Some might think that my mother contacted me from the “other side.” A supernatural occurrence? Well, if the supernatural is beyond our understanding, that describes God’s ways for sure. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, says the Lord’” (Isaiah 55:8). God used an old, battered trunk containing sad memories and exchanged those ashes for beauty. He gave me much more than I expected. 

I would never again taste a bite of cake made by my mama’s hands, or even hold her hand—not on this side of heaven. But I held evidence of her love —and God’s as well. And He is faithful to His promise to comfort those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I have not yet found the recipe card or made the scrapbook. But I can rest in the knowledge that my mother, a believer in Christ, abides with Him. And God’s word assures me that one day I will be together with her and other believers: “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever” (1 Thessalonians 5:10). 

That is one sweet ending! 

Joanna McGee Bradford is a risk manager and the author of The Father’s Voice, an inspirational mance novel, and other non-fiction articles and devotionals.

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