Have you ever encountered someone in your life that you hardly knew but have never forgotten? Several people come to my mind, but Mrs. Slack shines like a beacon above everyone else.
I was thirteen. She was thirty-something, pretty and kind and extremely shy. She came to church one Sunday wearing a yellow corsage. I told her how beautiful it was, never expecting her to take it off and pin it on me. But, in spite of my protests, that’s exactly what she did.
Tears still fill my eyes seeing her frail, trembling hands struggling to pin her beautiful flower onto my plain and simple dress. I can see her ashen face, her eyes shadowed with sorrow and pain . . . her small frame frail and weak.
Mrs. Slack was dying of cancer. And as heart-broken as I felt for her and as much as I wanted to say the right thing . . . that magical something, a humble thank you is all I could muster.
What does an awkward, shy thirteen-year-old say to a dying young woman? What does she say to her husband and six small children?
I still don’t know.
Mrs. Slack died only weeks after pinning her beautiful corsage on me. I remember the sadness I felt and wondering what became of her grieving husband and how he was coping raising his children alone. Did he have help? Did he give them away?
There were no answers to my questions, only visions of a tall, thin, handsome, grief-stricken young man with a family to raise without his beloved wife.
Today, nearly sixty years later, I don’t remember Mrs. Slack as a frail, dying young woman. I can’t even remember the sound of her voice or the words she said to me that day. I just remember her act of kindness and making a lonely troubled teen feel valued and appreciated. It’s as if God Himself had reached down and pinned that beautiful corsage on me.
Eventually, the corsage died and withered away. But Mrs. Slack will live forever in my heart.
Mrs. Slack taught me many things that day: To look beyond myself and see the needs of others and to see and hear with my heart and to trust God through the storms of life and to walk with strength and courage through the shadow of death.
To Mrs. Slack, it was just a yellow corsage. But to me, it was a humble act of kindness; a brave surrender to her life on earth. Rather than a dying young woman clutching her flowers to the grave, she freely gave them away to be treasured by the living.
So often I go through life questing God why I was born and how I can possibly be a blessing to others when at times my life is so emotionally screwed up. When I’m drowning in a sea of loneliness and depression. When I’m feeling like yesterday’s trash.
Then I think of Mrs. Slack and the impact that her short life had on me and then I know. I know that with God’s help I can be a light on someone’s dark path even when I’m feeling lost and alone.
We all have a purpose in life no matter how long or short it may be or regardless of the struggles we face. We all have a corsage to pin on someone else without ever knowing the tremendous impact we have on their life.
But they will never forget.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.