Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Cross

My dad is, among many wonderful things, a woodworker. He’s created some pretty amazing pieces in his time. Specifically for my boys and me, a large wooden toy box that can later convert to a coffee table, a replica of an ice chest with custom brass latches, an oak mantle clock, and a Noah’s Ark, complete with intricately-carved animals. “Two of each,” he explained, “except the rabbits – because they multiply.”

And that’s just stuff for me. The entire list is endless – duck decoys, banks made from old post office boxes that he gives to grandkids for 8th grade graduation – complete with an embedded penny from their birth year, a china hutch for my sister, a grandfather clock for my brother, a scaled replica of a house for Habitat for Humanity (that was about 300 labor hours.) And I’m sure I’m forgetting many, many others. 

Each project has its own story, its own amazing features, and its own labor of love by a man known for his perfection, patience, skill and talent. But perhaps the most touching – the most powerful wooden treasure he’s created – is a small, wooden cross. 

We’re not quite sure of the inspiration. We think it was Mom, who is of course the source of many of his brainstorms (aka “I want you to make this for me.”) Story has it she either saw a small cross or wanted a small cross that would fit in her hand. So he got to work, finding just the right wood for just the right-sized cross, sanding it down and staining it with a rustic hue – just for her.

At some point, one of their friends became ill, and Mom thought she might benefit from having the comfort of one of Dad’s crosses. In turn, she found a poem to go along with the token, and typed it up on a small card to accompany it. 

The Weaver

My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand, 
As the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.

Over time, the small wooden cross and poem became a symbol of comfort for select friends in need, and Dad carved an assortment of woods and styles. At one point, I requested a cross for myself during a difficult time in my life. Mom brought out the box and said, “You have to pick the one that feels the most comfortable in your hand.” I chose a dark wood with a beautiful grain – “the expensive wood,” my dad said. I carry it in my purse, and have been known to sleep with it in my hand, only to find it buried somewhere in the sheets the next morning.  

In the past few years, I’ve requested maybe three or four crosses for friends. I gave my friend Norma a cross during one of her first rounds of chemotherapy, and while at her house following her visitation noticed it sitting in a dish on her countertop. 

Before Mom got sick, Dad would turn down the bed at night and place the cross on her pillow. Every night. She has held tight to it going into every surgery she’s had over the past two years, and has had it in hand in recovery. I sometimes wonder if the surgeons realize its importance and allow it to remain in her possession in the operating room.

When she was getting ready to go in for her first surgery in March of 2011, I made a comment about her cross. “You know,” she said with tears in her eyes, “I don’t ask God to take away my burden. I just ask Him to help me carry my cross.” 

“Help me carry my cross.” That phrase resounded with me and still does. What an astounding request to God – not to take away the bad, but to help her deal with it. Just like that. And I remember that during the hard times. As much as I want to tell Him to “take it all away,” I simply ask Him to help me carry my cross. 

A rare moment with the cross in her right hand.
Mom held fast to that cross after her last brain surgery. Always in her left hand. One day I held it in my own hands and noticed how smooth and worn in places it was, right where her fingers curved around its corners. I placed it in her right hand and even in her post surgery-induced fog, she transferred it slowly to her left hand. 

A couple of weeks ago, while still in the ICU, we couldn’t locate her cross.  A few times she had dropped it in her sleep and it had fallen in the crevices of the hospital bed, but this time it wasn’t there. They had changed the bed sheets, and we could only surmise that it had gone out with the laundry. My dad called someone within the hospital to find out where the linens were taken, only to be told they were sent to an outside service. He tracked down the company and left messages, but no one ever called back. I’m sure they find many an items in their piles of laundry, and I was hoping they had some kind of depository for them. But I have a feeling that a small, worn wooden cross would perhaps not be viewed as having any value and promptly discarded. 

Upon realizing she had lost the cross, I offered her mine which I carried in my purse. It was a bit thicker and darker than hers, and not as worn. She looked at it and said slowly, “I want the cross Dad made.” Of courses, he HAD made my cross, but it was not HER cross.

At home, Dad and I combed through the box of crosses trying to find one similar in size, shape and wood grain. When we settled on one we both agreed was “close”, he took it in to her and placed it in her hand. She looked at it and held it for a bit before setting it on the tray next to her bed. 

For the most part, that’s where it remains. Occasionally if we tuck it in her hand she’ll hold it for awhile, but it’s as if she senses it’s not “her cross”, the one she’s clasped for comfort, prayed with and worn down to fit the curvature of her hand. She knows that cross has carried her through more tough times than most people can imagine, and the new one just doesn’t have that history. 

I know my mom doesn’t need a cross to validate her faith, but it seemed such a comfort for her. I know it is for me. Maybe she’ll take to the new cross, maybe she won’t. Someday I’m sure, I’ll wear mine down like she did hers, but I have a long time to go before I’ve carried near as many crosses as Mom has. I’d give anything to find her old one, if for nothing else but to bring her – and my dad - some comfort and peace.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your mom has a wonderful testimony and I hope that she either gets her cross back, or she finds comfort in a new one. I am continuing to pray for her recovery, comfort, and peace for all of you.


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