Snow Angels

Dearest Rachel –

It’s such a cliché when people come up to you in the receiving line at the visitation, and tell you, “If there’s anything you need…”

“If there’s anything I can do for you…”

Look, I’m not saying these sentiments aren’t genuine. But you wonder, do people really mean it when they say these things? Or would they be taken aback if I were to call in one of those favors?

I mentioned that I had to dig the car out of the snow while I had Chompers out to pee last night. It was already some three or four inches deep, and coming down thickly as I shoveled – so much so that I broke the shovel, although I didn’t realize that until I got up this morning to resume digging out. Fortunately, there was another within reach, but it’s still another small loss.

Then again, we have enough snow shovels for each of us to dig ourselves out. And with you gone, I guess we don’t really need that third one.

Anyway, as you might recall, I was supposed to be in the booth this morning at church, running slides for the congregation to follow. Have to be there by 7:30, although 7 o’clock would be preferable (as everyone else would be there already by 7:30, and I’d look like I was slacking off). So I scraped away what I could, and drove off, getting there just in time to beat the second deadline.

Of course, everyone at church knows about what happened. This is our community, our extended family (in fact, quite literally, as many of our extended family attends and serves here).

So the guy I met at the door, shoveling away at the snow around the entrance greeted me, offering his sympathies, and the standard “if there’s anything you need…”

I don’t like asking for favors, even at this point in time. But honestly, for once, I knew I needed help. We live on a pretty major thoroughfare, so I can’t park in the street when I come home from church. But I can’t pull into the driveway until it’s shoveled (and the snow is still coming down, although it’s letting up a little after dumping on us all night), and I can’t shovel unless me car is parked somewhere. I really and truly need help, and a specific kind of help.

“Hey, do you know of anyone who could plow my driveway back at my place?”

He smiled sadly. “No, I’ve got a pickup truck myself, but no plow attachment. He’s got one,” gesturing toward the truck that was currently clearing the parking lot, “but I think his is a commercial operation. Hey, I’ll ask around.”

I suppose asking around is the best I can hope for. After all, the snow was still falling; I’d want it to be cleared as late as possible to get as much of the snow as possible.

When I’m in the booth, all I see of the stage is what the cameras in back see. Even the wide shot camera (thanks to Covid, the cameras are essentially fixed at the beginning of the day rather than manned to follow the lead singer or speaker as they move about onstage) rarely displays much of the audience, so I’ve little idea how many people are actually attending. It’s why, whenever we would stop by the folks after church, and they would ask about the service, “So, how many people were there?” I would always have to turn to you or Daniel for that answer.

There weren’t many today.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really. Eight to twelve inches of snow overnight is nothing to sneeze at, even for us living here in Chicagoland. I’d be willing to wager it’s the biggest snowfall since we got that secondhand snowblower, so that’s the better part of at least two winters. People just decide to hunker down and watch the service online. It’s an option these days – and a fairly high production value one at that – and one people are that much more willing to take when snowfall is added atop the whole social-distancing thing we’ve already been dealing with this past year.

I heard that the first service had sixteen people show up. And in the green room after the second service, they were debating whether to do the music in a more ‘unplugged’ fashion, with just acoustic guitar and vocals, if the attendance at the third service fell to around ten people. Which they did, so I assume…

But it was a little more crowded in the lobby after the second service, which is the one where childcare was provided. You hadn’t been scheduled today (you had been on for last week, and even as you were lying there in the snow at the bottom of the hill, I felt I needed to let someone at church know you wouldn’t be able to make that commitment. I didn’t know at the time that you would never be able to make another, but well…), but I felt the need to know how they were getting on in Bridge Kids all the same.

“So,” I asked Pam, your ‘boss,’ “How are you guys doing?”

She smiled. “We’re doing all right. She left a big hole in the nursery, but we’ve gotten so many offers of people wanting to step up and fill in for her. We had twenty-two kids, too, so we’re doing okay.

“How are you doing? Do you need anything?” That question again. And I figured I might as well answer it again.

“You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with a plow, would you?”

“Oh, my husband would be willing to bring his snowblower over, sure!” And she waved him over and I gave him my address, and the route to get there. I offered to pay, but he (well, they, I suppose) would have none of it.

As I headed back to the auditorium and the green room, one of the campus ministers tracked me down. Evidently, there were several other offers to plow my (our? It’s still ‘ours,’ isn’t it, since Daniel’s still here, right?) driveway, and I should let Daniel know to expect company outside – although there was no need to let them in or anything.

I texted and called him, to make doubly sure.

I had to pick up more vegetables for Chompers’ next set of MREs, so I stopped at Aldi on the way home. I was talking to Daniel, trying to determine if/what he wanted – eventually he settled on some pretzel bites with cheese – and he mentioned some motor noises outside, but had no idea what was done. But he confirmed that someone was over, briefly.

So I didn’t really know what to expect.

Honey, it was so gratifying to see the whole turnaround cleared, along with the sidewalk and the walk to the front porch. Even the driveway to the garage was cleared, and I hadn’t bothered with that on the Sunday evening after your passing. We could probably drive you car out, even.

I don’t know why we would, though.

And while I know Pam’s husband had something to do with it, I gather he wasn’t alone. And I don’t know who it was that did this for us. I don’t know who to thank. I don’t even know his name, except as ‘Pam’s husband.’

But these guys, whoever they are, did this for us. It wasn’t just words.

Mom and Dad get this a lot. They are, after all, both over eighty, and of course, you recall how close Dad came to being where you are now (several people at the funeral had suggested that, when you showed up up there, Dad’s cousin Dennis might greet you with something along the lines of “What are you doing here? And where’s Ralph? I thought he was supposed to be right behind me!”), so there are many folks at church, as well as their neighbors, who clear off their driveway on a regular basis. They rarely, if ever, announce what they’ve done; Mom and Dad just wake up, make their coffee (well, Mom does – Dad still has trouble swallowing, and still uses that feeding tube for the most part, as you know), sit in the living room, and look out to see that their driveway has been mysteriously cleared.

They call those unknown benefactors “snow angels.” Not the type you used to make back in the day, of course, but every bit worth celebrating and appreciating.

Because there are people with a servant’s heart in our lives, where the offer of help is real and genuine, and not just a trite cliché.

There are people… who are like you. And I thank God for them.

I’ll talk to you later, honey. I love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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