Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Box of Raisins

I feel the need to say something about the tragedy that unfolded early yesterday. While I can't even begin to imagine how those parents may feel, I was encouraged by the support flowing from all of the social media I am a part of. My church even held a special prayer service for those victims in Connecticut and in China. I felt it was more important for me to just stay silent rather than try to find vain words to make me look like an insightful person.

I was going to post something yesterday that I would like to today. I do not want to make light of the situations that happened yesterday, but I did experience a form of loss that I want to talk about.

In October, the world lost a wonderful man. This man, while very dear to me, is someone that not many people knew. Even I have to admit that I didn't know him well.

His name was Milan. He was a member at my mom's church in Small Town, Missouri. My mom served that church until 1988. It was one of my first church homes. The church was very small and had a nursery/playroom the size of a large closet. Milan would watch me during the service. If I got fussy, he would take me to a different room that had a portrait of the Last Supper on it. This usually got me to calm down enough to stop crying. He would also bring me boxes of raisins to munch on. When we moved to Arkansas, he gifted me the portrait to remember him by. It has always had a special hanging spot in my room and it is now in our dining room. {It's even in the original frame!} I even called it "Jesus and his boys", which my family will never let me forget :)

After we moved New Year's Day of 1989, I never saw Milan in person again. However, he would send me cards on my birthday. He even sent a beautiful necklace to me on my 16th birthday. I would send thank you notes as a young girl. As I grew older, I sent him graduation invitations, a wedding invitation, and our annual Christmas card.

In his cards, Milan would speak of how he remembered our family fondly. He hoped I was doing well and pursuing my dreams. Included in every card was an empty raisin box. The last one I remember, he wrote on the side with the words: "Do you remember when your hand would fit in this box? I do very clearly. I know someday you'll have children that will be able to reach inside as well." It was almost our personal inside joke. I didn't know him personally well, but he was always so thoughtful and sweet.

Knowing he was getting up there in years, I wondered about sending his Christmas card with Jillian's birth announcement last year. Just in case, I sent it anyways. I figured it was worth trying :) When addressing our Christmas postcards last week, I wrote a special message on his card. "I think Jillian is almost ready for raisins :)" I remember smiling as I drew the little smiley face. I hoped it would make him smile too.

On Thursday evening, I was talking to my mom on the phone as I do almost every day. She then mentioned that she got something interesting in the mail. It was a letter from Milan's daughter. It included a letter she wrote to me that was sent to our last address that got returned to her. She mentioned that Milan had passed away in October. However, it meant so much to him to get our card with Jillian's picture in it last year. She thanked me for all the correspondence I kept with him over the years. He was in his early 90's when he finally left this world.

My mom told me that the letter she wrote directly to me is very fat. I'm not sure what's in it, but I have a feeling it will make me cry when I read it. Although I didn't know him well, hearing that he passed made me realize just how much our sporadic correspondence meant to me too. He was such a sweet man and a direct link to my young childhood. It showed me that making that little effort with someone can mean so much in the end.

The Last Supper portrait now means even more to me than it did before. As we sent off most of our Christmas cards, I picked his up and set it aside. It was sad for me to have to take it out of the pile knowing it wasn't going to him anymore. I ran my fingers over the message I wrote him and choked back tears. No one else may understand the connection we had, but I am so grateful for it. He will be dearly missed.

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