Over 20 years ago, Mary Appling, also known as Bubby, started the daycare our children now attend. Her daughter, Fran, took over the business from her many years ago and runs the daycare now. Bubby lives at Fran’s, and she remains a powerful presence in the daycare – representing love, strength, and a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, refreshing perspective that is largely missing from the world today. The daycare – and our family – would not be the same without her.
Last August, Bubby suffered from an illness that left her incapacitated and bed-ridden. While she remains mentally active, she has been largely unable to get out of bed for nearly a year now. We have done various things to show her our love and to bring the world into her bedroom. For example, we did a Christmas for Bubby and a women’s Easter Tea with Bubby. Niki also visits Bubby a couple times a week just to talk with her, discuss scripture, and glean some wisdom from her.
Recently, Bubby’s health has started to noticeably decline. She discussed it with Niki one day, and asked if he would officiate at her funeral. It was really hard for all of us to come to terms with the fact that Bubby will pass soon.
A couple days later, Niki raised with me the idea of celebrating Bubby’s life with her before she passes rather than waiting until afterwards. How cool would it be if she had a chance to see how much people love her, how much she has changed people’s lives, and if she could say goodbye to everyone? Funny thing was, I’d had the SAME thought just the day before. So we took that as a confirmation, and Niki decided to bring it up with Bubby the next time he saw her.
Now, for some background, Bubby was really excited about – and set on – having a big, blow-out, all done up funeral at the big Baptist church she’d been a member of for 50 years. She wanted this choir, and that vocalist, and these flowers, and… So we weren’t sure how Bubby was going to take our idea.
Niki went in to talk to her, but Bubby cut him off. “I need to talk to you about something serious,” she said. She explained that she had woken up in the middle of the night the night before with the thought that she didn’t want everyone to have a funeral without her. She couldn’t stand the idea of all her friends and family getting together, having fun, and eating good food without her. She didn’t see the point in missing a party like that. “Why can’t we do it before I go,” she asked. Well, funny thing, Bubby. We were thinking the same thing!
So we did it. In a week, we coordinated and organized what would otherwise have been a funeral — complete with scripture, a message, several speeches from selected individuals, a message, two songs, a guest book, cards, photos and videos, and – of course – the food. The only difference was that the person of honor, Bubby, was able to attend, address her loved ones, and – in her own words – hug everyone and tell them she loved them. We also filled out cards for her for her family to read to her over the next couple days.
It was simple but amazing. All kinds of people came together to make it happen. And the one thing that was most evident was everyone’s love for Bubby.
And it also was used powerfully by God. We heard all kinds of stories afterwards. Like the man who was on his knees behind the house, overwhelmed by the evidence of God’s love and rededicating his life to Christ. And the Muslim woman who said to Fran, “Okay, I need to know more about this Jesus.” And the skeptic who said he had never experienced love like this and there was something different and genuine about these people (meaning the people from our fellowship). And how reconciliation happened in a family that was broken and divided. And how every time Bubby woke up that night, she said, “That was the BEST day ever! I had SO much fun!”
It was powerful all around. As for me, it was so special for me – and such an honor – to get to be used by God to do something so loving and to make such a difference in the life of so many people. THAT is one of the best parts of ministry.