The house felt cold when we walked in.
I can’t even remember what night it was. Friday? Was it the Friday after my mother died?
I hadn’t been home in I don’t know how long. Two weeks? Three? One?
Time stood still. Or it had flowed past like a river at flood stage. I couldn’t tell you that either.
But the house was definitely cold.
Upstate New York, you know. Near winter. Frugal husband. Since I wasn’t home, he barely turned the heat on.
We came in the side door, the one that leads directly to the kitchen, the door with the windows that face the sunrise.
The girls fussed over the dog. Bud carried stuff into the coat room. But I just stood there, trying to remember this place. This was my home, but suddenly it all felt unfamiliar.
The cluttered table.
The minimal counter space.
A mountain of mail had fallen over, an avalanche of Direct TV advertisements and credit card offers. I started picking through the pile, finding the mail that really mattered, when a small cream-colored envelope slipped out from under some of the non-essentials.
It was handwritten in beautiful script that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t recognize the return address either.
Come to think of it — it must have been just a day or two after my mother’s death, because I remember wondering that anyone could possibly have sent a condolence card so quickly.
I turned it over and over in my hands, admiring the way she wrote a cursive capital “Z” and the way her “L” gracefully curved under the rest of the word “locust” – my street name.
My mother had beautiful cursive handwriting, too. Her “E”s were most elegant.
“What’s that?” Bud asked, coming back in the room.
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly.
My hands were trembling as I slid my finger under the deckle edge of the envelope flap. They were downright shaking as I pulled the little card out.
A folded paper fell onto the table. Trembling hands struggled to unfold it. My eyes could barely focus to read it.
“Dear Sally,” the typewritten letter began. “With apologies for intruding at a time that I understand is awfully full with family responsibilities and is not easy for you, I’m writing to tell you that I’m praying for you…”
I went back and read that line over and over and over. Someone I didn’t know was praying for me.
I glanced up at the date on the letter — October 22. It was written before my mother had even gone into the hospital.
The rest of the words jumbled around on the page. She had known Stewart. She had been reading my blog. She was praying for my family. She signed it, but I didn’t recognize the name.
It wasn’t until I read and reread it in the following days that I began to understand. God had known what I would need long before I needed it.
On that cold night, in my cold kitchen, though, I was suddenly warmed.
He had strangers praying for me.