Home Goings

I had already cried quite a lot that day. Easter night, I had walked around my old haunts–the fountain, the Palace, the little pond. Walking down Warszawska, tears kept falling out of my eyes. Tears leaked into the pillow that night, and into my coffee the next morning in the place where I had always had coffee and watched the light coming in the windows. I cried to Lolita in the van, and when our friend met us at her door, she said, “Oh Anita, are you sick?”

I said no, I’m just sad. I’m so happy where I am, but so sad not to live in Poland anymore. Then we drank coffee and ate chocolate blok, and who couldn’t be uncheered with this on Easter Monday?

Then Lolita and I took the train to Warsaw to revisit more old haunts and imbibe the atmosphere that I miss so much. We lingered long over lunch and E. Wedel drinking chocolate and stories and joys and worries, and were nearly ready to leave. When she came out of the restroom, she was crying, asked me to pay while she goes outside to call someone, because she doesn’t want to tell me in here. So I did, when the waiter finally brought the check.

Out on the sidewalk, she could hardly get the words out: Our… sister Beat…is home.

Incredulous. Stunned. Shaking my head. We cried on each other’s shoulders, and I kept shaking my head. Then it occurred to me: she’s healed, she’s healed, she’s dancing. But why was I shaking and crying?

There was no point in looking at sights. The shock had suddenly chilled us, so we found a coffee shop, warmed up a little, read the terse news article. Beat’s car had hit a horse and she was killed instantly. We got the next train, went to friends of Beat’s, and talked and cried and prayed together.

The next day, my friend and I returned to the US as planned. It was hard, hard to leave, and harder to come back to a surreal atmosphere. All week, a fog seemed to cover the place and I kept pushing through jet lag and emotional numbness. Thursday my mom had surgery to remove lymph nodes for analyzing and determining treatment for stage 2 breast cancer. It was a yucky week, all around.

Saturday was the funeral. Finally, I could let myself be sad. Even though it was still surreal. The form I saw in the casket wasn’t Beat. I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t around a corner somewhere, chortling and chatting. Someone so alive can’t be gone for always. Singing “Under His Wings” in a Faith Builders group helped me feel I could DO something with my grief. Telling my favorite story about her at the open mic at dinner helped take some weight off my heart. But it still felt surreal.

It seems to me that this fog of grief is two enormous things: loss and shock. My heart can’t accept what my ears are hearing. Yesterday all the staff and students gathered in the chapel for a memorial time to remember and celebrate her life.  I knew I wanted to be there, but I kept thinking this is just a weird kind of exercise because we all know she’ll show up again and we’ll laugh together at how ridiculous and impossible it was that we thought she died. I cried when we sang “safely in His bosom gather…such a refuge ne’er was given,” because I’m sooooo glad she’s safe and healed and radiant.

I remember Beat’s soft heart and gentle love. How could she possibly remember everyone’s favorite food and make sure I’d gotten my favorite bar that last week? Her irreverent, shrieking howls were part of the reason I loved her. Her honest tears were beautiful to me, not weakness.

In the memorial time, it was fitting that there was more laughter than tears. We ended with some little howls ourselves. I did, anyhow. My favorite story recounted is this: Someone complained to her, the head cook, about the food. “Just put more Ranch on it,” she said.

The layers of complexity and wisdom and understatement in that line is priceless and howl-worthy and so Beat.

She was a queen in God’s Kingdom, and in the kitchen, and she is a hero.

15 thoughts on “Home Goings

  1. Well spoken, Anita! I miss my friend and feel abit lonely at times knowing she is no longer with us but also rejoicing that she is pain free n safe in Jesus’ arms!!

  2. Thank you for writing, Anita. I wasn’t close to Beat but I loved her–how could anyone not?!?–and it’s awfully hard to believe that she is really gone. Surely she’s ‘around a corner somewhere, chortling and chatting ‘ as you said so well. I remember her big, soft heart and good hugs and the riotous ringing laughter. She brought warmth and life to FB. And consistently amazing food.
    But now she’s Home. And happier than ever. This was all gain for her!
    But everyone there in Guys Mills is in my thoughts and prayers these days… May God measure out grace according to His abundance and send His blessing and peace.

  3. How precious that you gave such a heart tribute and love to one who is ‘healed’ and has a perfect body. I loved Beat and felt she was such a part of FB, no one can replace her. . . that is true, but Jesus saw it differently. We heal of that numbness with the consolation of memories that will linger for life. I pray that her influence will continue for generations.

  4. I have seen Beat but I can’t remember actually meeting her. But it sounds like she was an amazing person. I can only imagine how her sudden death must be affecting the people at FB.

    And, Anita, it reminds me of the time you found out about your Grandpa Mast’s death while on an idyllic trip. What a shock to learn of the death of a person precious to you, but especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

    There was a carry-in meal after church on Sunday at Center for anyone who knew Beat or would like to honor her. I haven’t heard but I assume they had a blessed time of grieving together and sharing memories.

    May God grant peace and healing to you and to the entire FB family, as well as her parental family. LRM

  5. This struck me as something close to how the disciples must have felt after Jesus’ death. (Don’t you think he also knew their individual tastes and made sure to cook the fish just right, point out the tree that grew the fruit the other one especially loved … ) Such a shock when He was gone. Times like these make me thankful more than ever for the hope we have in the resurrection!

    And, following her example, I wonder how I can be a bit of Jesus to the people I’m with all the time.

  6. Thanks for writing the lovely tribute. Beatrice lived from the heart and showed us how to embrace life with gusto. I am one of the recipients of being touched by the largeness of her heart. The ripples of a life lived well has eternal impact.

  7. I miss you, Anita. I think of you in your days of grief, the loss and the shock as you describe it. And then there’s the brief mention of your mother’s health journey, and I know this must make you wonder, once again, where home really is for you. Here’s a hug, a tissue, a shared cup of coffee.

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