Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Unclaimed Property

A 19-year-old young woman I know, from very modest background, just lost her mother to cancer.

At the funeral, the mother was eulogized by an older brother who explained that his mother had married young, but soon became a widow with two small children. As a result, she had to “debwouye-l” to create a life for those children and her. So over the years, she had five more children by different fathers, at least one of whom did not stay long enough to see the baby’s birth.

The eulogy confirmed what was obvious: practically for all of her adult life, that woman and her seven children struggled for the basics: food, housing, stability, love. Theirs was an existence marked by not enough of the good things, ice cream outings, comfortable beds and well appointed rooms, a husband’s affection, a father’s protection; and much too much of the bad: hunger, abuse, fights, abandonment.

As someone once described the life of the poor, she was born, she suffered, and then she died. She was only 59.

At first, I found myself judging her: why did she keep having children she clearly could not afford?  Did she not know that those men would not stay? Wasn’t it obvious that it was better to be poor with two children than with seven? 

Judging the dead: what a crummy thing to do. And she was the one who stayed with her children, and managed to raise them, send them to school.

Shamed by conscience, I exhorted myself, “just pray for the children.” 

So thinking about them that night, a most unlikely connection came to mind. In fact, my husband and I had recently received an “Unclaimed Property” letter, a genuine official government notification that we owned money we had not claimed, instructing us on the procedure to follow in order to appropriate those funds.

Unclaimed property. What a perfect allegory for that dear departed soul.
As a human being made in God’s image, she had been entitled to much: comfort, safety, peace, joy, generosity, beauty, laughter, love and affection, all blessings intended for her. Most were never claimed. She lived and died having gotten little of what was lawfully hers.

Arguably, this is the case with all who live lives contrary, counterfeit, whether dominated by drug or other addiction, abusive relationships, bitterness, rage, hatred, fear.

Here, millions of Haitians live in abject poverty and indignity, seemingly oblivious to their true calling of goodness and brilliance. Unclaimed property.

That night, limiting my prayer to my friend and her siblings, I offered the following: “Dear Father, you who create and love every human being, you intended for Mrs. X a good life, one that would have reflected your love and goodness, one that would have brought her joy and righteousness. Father, in the name of Jesus, I now declare that all of the blessings intended for her that are still languishing in an account somewhere, or a post office box, unclaimed, Father God, I declare in the precious, precious name of Jesus, that her children will receive “Unclaimed Property” letters, addressed to each one, by name. Amen."