The joy of preserving for tomorrow

The first time we met her was when her husband was boorishly offering his testimony of Jesus Christ. The practiced speech of his salvation had worn thin over the years, and the rote memory of his words dampened the rejoicing that should have been present at such an offering. We stood politely and waited for him to finish his witness, all the time wondering how we could have moved next door to a man who, at his best, judged all things in accordance with the spirituality he had experienced, with no room for new and exciting joys that come from an ever growing faith. She had seen our hidden distress, and giggled as her husband went on and on. Pretty soon, she was doubled over in laughter and urging him to speed up, apparently tired of the same old story herself. When he had finished with a great “Amen” she guided him to the garden and put him to work lining up the rows with a string and hoe, and then quietly introduced herself to us. We have never been the same since.

Ginia was the picture perfect grandma, who could pickle anything that grew, and puff up a pastry with a quick swish of her spoon, and can a batch of cherries and their jelly in a fall afternoon faster than it took Jim to get past the first putterings of the day. Her appearance fit her role nicely, and the glow of a healthy life was always lighting her face framed in white mane of glory. When she would laugh, her belly would start before her mouth uttered a giggle. The tiny rolls of fat would move in ripples, then waves, then overtake her whole body as she reared back for a good laugh. But even then, before a sound came from her mouth, her joyful tears would start dripping down her face, and her face would turn a beautiful red, and you knew it was coming. BAM! Her laughter echoed throughout the block, and it would rush past you and snare the funniest bones in your body when it grabbed. The joy of heaven would rush through her delight, and warm even the coldest days in the hardest times.

It was so good, so joyful, being near her, until one day, her laughter came close to killing us. This very Christian, very Baptist, very God fearing woman was a walking testimony in herself. She never spoke with words about her relationship with Jesus, but you knew by just being in her presence that she was one of the trusted faithful of God. She received respect from everyone who met her. She had the bearing of one who was quite able to walk to Jesus and give him a hug, without having to prove to watchers that she had that right. She was a true and perfected Christian, and you couldn’t help but watch and copy her ways of life.

One hot summer day, while we were all sitting around. relaxing from the hot and steamy work of pressuring some corn to preserve, her husband came in and asked where his dinner was. She tried to look at him quietly, without notice from us, but she failed in her private message, and we saw a quick glimpse of pain come over her eyes. It had been a long day, and she just didn’t have the strength to fix a meal. We quickly jumped up to help, reassuring her that we were up to the job, and we went into her kitchen to start his dinner. Forging through her freezer, we found a small portion of meat wrapped in some freezer paper, and it looked like just the right amount to feed one appetite. Plopping it in the microwave, we thawed it out, and then spent many tense minutes studying the slightly browned piece of meat to figure out what it was. Neither of us knew for sure what cut it was, but we figured cut up into a little casserole would make a good hot meal for him. Dinner preparation finished, we proudly carried our quick casserole to her very hungry husband, mentioning to Ginia that we had found the perfect size of meat to avoid left overs. She giggled in delight at having skipped meal preparation one of the few times in her life.

Suddenly, she grew pale, and ordered her husband to drop his fork immediately. which he did quickly. and then it happened. Her belly started rippling, and then rushing in waves, and then convulsing in abnormal contortions. Tears filled her eyes, her face got red, then purple, then blue, and she tried to talk, but words would not come. Her husband tried to calm her down, but to no avail. Bordering on unhealthy, we began to fear a heart attack or a stroke as she struggled to breathe from one of the biggest laugh fits ever experienced by woman. She dropped to the floor, breathless, and held her sides as she struggled to breathe through the gasps of laughter.

Finally, she was able to speak the words. ”Minie”. We looked to her husband to decipher, and he had dropped to the floor, pale, weakened and laughing in the uncontrolled convulsions. He struggled to tell us what was so funny, but all he could say was “Minie”. Nervously giggling, then joining them outright in a good old fashioned laugh, we got caught up in their delight, and began receiving the wonderful blessing of God’s joy, as it washed over us. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was so good and right, and we certainly would not have been able to stop if we chose.

Thirty minutes of gut wrenching laughter later, Ginia stopped suddenly and with all the strength she could muster, asked us to sit down and not look at her or talk to her or make a sound. She said she had something very important to tell us and it would be impossible to get out if she saw our faces. Two years ago, “Minie” her precious little doggie had a tumor in his private parts, and after his operation, she just couldn’t bring herself to part with his privates. She put them in freezer wrap, in the freezer, so she could bury them with him when he passed away.

Oh the horror. Oh the funniest thing we had ever heard! Oh dear God, save us from our uncontrolled laughter to come. We fell to the floor, unable to get our breath, unable to control our bladders, unable to stop our laughter and unable to plead for mercy.

Who would have ever thought that a good Christian Baptist woman could ever have something like that in her freezer next to the pop up rolls and sausage! We coulda died that day, killed by a laughter that was much too big for us to hold!