What was I doing in this curious place? I thought, sitting in my car. Grave markers marched out of step, tilting like bending trees in the wind. Grass grew wild, crawling over flat markers as toppled vases with wasted flowers lay forlorn.

The wind howled and whipped around the car, rolling it like a boat lost at sea. The sky was dreadful dark, dropping soft puddles of rain. A steeple stood proud against the threatening storm, anchored firmly on top of the little white church.

A handful of people filed into the sanctuary, clutching their hats and grasping their coats, daring the wind to snatch them away. My eyes searched for a familiar face.

I don’t know these people.

What was I doing here?

Why did I say I would come? I don’t know the woman, much less her deceased mother. What will I say? Well, I can’t put it off any longer. I have to go inside.

The basement social room was small with a ceiling so low one could almost reach up and touch it. Tiny Sunday school cubicles stationed themselves around the perimeter of the room and a long table with chairs sat silently off to one side. Guest quietly seated themselves at the table, each probably wondering who was related to whom. Feeling like an alien, I settled into a chair and waited for the memorial service to begin.

It was a precious intimate ceremony. My new friend of two weeks spoke lovingly of her deceased mother. Those who knew her mother nodded in approval, smiling at each other. Searchingly, I gazed at the face in the photos on the table, wondering what tales her life might have held.

Soon, it was time for the burial. Pushing against the wind, we walked “follow the leader” in line to the tiny graveyard. The casket floated above a yawning hole, ready for decent as friends circled around. We were not there to mourn her death, but to celebrate her life. Yes, death will happen, but in Jesus Christ it will not take away life, it’s just the beginning!

As I drove home I still wondered why I was there. I guess it doesn’t matter. What mattered was I was there. Being obedient to the quiet, still voice of God is what counts. I’m glad I went. I felt privileged to celebrate the life of an unknown…my new friend’s mother. My presence comforted my friend and I no longer remained a stranger, bringing new meaning to these words: For I was a stranger, and you invited me in” (NIV). I was blessed!