Memorial Chapel

You will find me here on this upholstered chair near the Tiffany lamp.  It’s quiet here.  It’s peaceful here.  The front windows face out to the Cook Inlet and Mount Illiamna.  It smells “new” in here because the wood hasn’t been weathered very long.

I’m in my Mother-in-law’s Memorial Chapel.  Before she passed away from cancer three years ago, she requested a chapel be built on their property, overlooking the ocean with the view of her favorite mountain.  She used to call Mt. Illiamna “her mountain”.  She wanted a place to “come away” and pray; a place where others who were her guests in the home could tuck away for some solace and spend time with God.  And so here I am. 

The chapel is decorated with some of Donna’s favorite things.  Her favorite type of flowers are in a large red vase in the corner–Birds of Paradise.  Red was her favorite color.  Another corner of the chapel holds a small marble table where we placed the ashes of this beautiful woman in a box, wrapped in two different red fabrics pieces left over from dresses and clothing she had made for me, my sister-in-law and my daughter.  On the table is also a large plaster pair of hands that Donna had picked out and requested that some of her ashes be placed there.  Next to it she wanted the phrase “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me.”  We honored this request and Gary, her husband, placed her ashes in the hands, the hands on a silver tray and placed around the hands red glass hearts–one heart for every year of their marriage–38. 

On the chair near me is a book by Chuck Swindoll called: “The Mystery of God’s Will”.  Donna, in preparation for her departure ordered many books for her family to read in her absence.  She bought books about heaven for both her grown children and her grandchildren.  She wrote letters to each of her children and grandchildren and they are in a basket in another corner of the chapel, along with the memorial book we made for her that is full of letters from friends and relations who share their memories of her. 

There is also a small stereo in the corner tuned to her favorite Christian radio channel.  That was something you would always hear when entering her house.  Sometimes she would excuse herself because her “buddy” Chuck Swindoll, or James Dobson was about to speak.  The stereo reminds us of her, but right now it is not turned on. 

Though this chapel is filled with things that remind me of Donna, from the art to the stereo, I come here not to remember her as much as I come to be alone with God.  I come away to talk to the One who made me and sees me.  The One whose eye is on the sparrow, and whose eyes never leave me.  

I can look out at the ocean and marvel at His handiwork.  I can smell the salty air and the moist soil as the dew has blanketed the lawn.  I can stand in awe of who He is.  Then I can sit in this chapel and pour out my heart to Him.  I can ask Him my questions, my “why’s”, and allow myself to be swept away in the solace.

Even if you do not have a chapel to sit in, God promises to be a refuge and a shelter for your heart.  Pour your heart out to Him.  He will guard it, He will defend it, He will heal it. 

Psalm 62:5-8 (New International Version)

 5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
       my hope comes from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
       he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
       he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
       pour out your hearts to him,
       for God is our refuge.

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