On our visit to Havana last week, Jay and I visited the Colon Cemetery, home of the grave of Senora Amelia Goyri. Poor Amelia died in childbirth at just 23 years old; her stillborn son was buried in the same grave at her feet. Her husband, consumed by grief, could not grasp the fact that he had lost his family. He convinced himself that Amelia was only sleeping and had door knockers installed on her tomb. He visited her daily, knocking three times to awaken her and then, when his time was up, backing away from her tomb so that he could keep it within eyesight as long as possible.
Years later, the tomb was exhumed; witnesses claimed that the bodies were in fact not decomposed, and that the baby was now in his mother’s arms. Word spread, and Amelia became known as “The Miracle Woman.” Her tomb was turned into a shrine visited by people from around the world who came—and continue to come today—to ask Amelia for miraculous favors (mainly for the healing of children). Guests often bring gifts to Amelia’s tomb; many of these are a sort of thank you note etched in stone—a permanent acknowledgement that Amelia’s miraculous touch has not gone unnoticed.
I found the site agonizingly poignant. Having loved children who have left this world for the next, I sympathize with these grieving adults who want so desperately to right the incomprehensible wrong of beloved children suffering. I want to knock three times and back away, trusting The Miracle Woman Amelia to take away the pain in the world. I really do wish it were just that simple.
The truth is, though, that we live between the “already” and the “not yet.” We already get glimpses of the new heaven and the new earth where “death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” We see glimpses that prove that justice really can prevail, that show what God’s love feels like, or that illustrate how it feels to live in the center of God’s perfect will. In those times we are certain of who God is and whose we are. They don’t last long enough though . . . because we just aren’t there yet.
Brokenness remains. Death threatens. Hope falters. Grief lingers. And it can feel like “not yet” really means “no way.” But friends, hear the good news: in Christ there is always a way. In Christ, we are already there.
I was seven, so my sister was nine, and my brother was only three. As far as we knew, it was both brand new (it wasn't) and as cool as Adam West’s Batmobile.
For starters, our other car—a 1966 Dodge Dart station wagon—was much smaller than the new one. Our parents had gotten the Dodge when I was a baby. I was prone to car-sickness during my early years; the doctors informed my parents that my ailment was likely due to my becoming overheated. Our family took some really long car trips back then—in the summer and then again at Christmas. So naturally, the folks went out and bought me my own car: one with built-in air conditioning. (An aside: I think we can all agree that this is early evidence that they love me best. Just saying . . . .)
But back to our new-to-us 1972 Chrysler Town and Country wagon. That car had all kinds of nifty features. Sure it had air conditioning (pretty much standard issue by that time), but it also had a thoroughly modern, cutting-edge, stereo system. Yep. We had, right there in our car’s rather extensive dash, a built-in 8-track tape player. (Go ahead; be jealous.) On trips, Mama always brought along all of our favorites: soundtracks from Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and the latest from Barry Manilow and The Carpenters. Oh yeah!
The Chrysler had these neat little compartments along the sides where you could stash all kinds of stuff. We called these hidey-holes “cubbies.” That is little ‘c’ cubbies (a critical point as you’ll soon learn).
And it was enormous. The front seat alone could handle three-fifths of our family when necessary and still leave room for our geriatric cocker spaniel. The back seat was so large that my two siblings could sit there together and never once make physical contact. The way-back was my seat; we’ll get to that. But first, The Cubby. The Cubby, a trench of sorts that filled the space between the back seat and the way-back was about a foot wide and 18 inches or so deep. Of course only one of us (at the time) could fit in there, but if you sat upright in The Cubby with your legs extended, leaning back on the upholstery, your head would be resting right against the car’s state-of-the-art stereo speaker. “O-o-o OHHHHHHH-kla-home-uh where the wind comes sweeping down the plain . . . .” Pure delight.
Usually, though, I climbed over The Cubby to get to the way-back—the seat at the rear of the vehicle that faced on-coming traffic. (Evidently, my car-sickness was on hiatus during those years.) Whenever we travelled, I took a pillow, my favorite doll (Redhead), and a paper sack full of books. I would snuggle down with a book in my hand and Redhead in the crook of my arm, and read and read and read. Oh my goodness: it was wonderful.
In the eighties, we traded that car for a much smaller Pontiac Phoenix; I haven't thought much about the old Chrysler in a long time. Then this week, I posted a story that included that car. I wanted a picture to go along with the post, so I searched Google until I found one. Imagine my shock when my 2013 eyes beheld all those images of the 1972 Chrysler Town and Country. Yikes. The faux wooden panels that I thought had added such character to our green wagon . . . well . . . they didn’t. The door that opened to the way-back appeared overly large, awkward, and gangly. Simply put, the thing was a pea-green land barge decorated with tacky—nay gaudy—board-like siding. Embarrassingly hideous.
But then I found a shot of the interior (different color, same model). There are the cubby holes along the sides. The way-back: roomy and ready for a reader. And look! The speakers right behind The Cubby. And suddenly it’s brand new, as beautiful as ever, and “It’s Yesterday Once More.”
“All my best memories come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry, just like before
It's yesterday once more”
From "Yesterday Once More,"
by Richard Carpenter &
John Bettis 1973, The Carpenters, Now & Then.