by Joanie Butman
In an effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle and determined to shed holiday weight, I enrolled in a jump-start program with a nutritionist. I’ve done fine with some of the changes and failed abysmally with others. The way I look at it, something is better than nothing. If I succeed in cutting out sugar, wheat and caffeine, I’m okay with the rest of my vices. I remind myself often, “Baby steps, Joan. You can’t take a lifetime of bad habits and eliminate all of them in one month. You worked hard to achieve your current mess!” At the first meeting my ‘coach’ warned against the temptation to give up or wallow in remorse after the occasional lapse. She suggested just being more mindful about making better food choices the next day or even the next meal.
Timely advice as I hosted a surprise birthday party for a friend at my home during my first week. Not one of my wisest choices sabotaging myself three days in. The next morning I opened a hostess gift from one of my guests. I laughed when I saw it because I knew she had just enrolled in the same program. The variety of small forks was meant as encouragement in our portion control struggles. We probably could have used them the night before. Regardless, my work is cut out for me because the second photo is my version of a normal size fork. It’s no mystery as to why I find controlling my weight so difficult. It’s just that at a certain age, food begins to taste better than thin feels. I’m going with the philosophy that old looks better fuller – fills out the wrinkles.
The other reason these forks made me smile is that it brought to mind a favorite story of mine. It’s a little long but worth it.
A Woman and a Fork
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the Pastor's reply.
"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
“That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.
The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!"
“So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What's with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.’"
The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.
So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.
I can relate to this story more than most because years ago, when I was given a bleak prognosis, I planned my own funeral as well. Obviously, I never had to execute my plans but when the time comes, don’t miss it, it’s going to be great. It was during my planning that I came across this story and chose to add the fork detail to my instructions.
As a Christian, I, too, firmly believe the best is yet to come. I can’t think of a better epitaph to leave as encouragement for others, and you can be sure I won’t be holding any of those little forks when my time comes because I’m going to dig in with wild abandon. This is an area where my super-sized fork is definitely the wiser choice. My appetite for God needn’t be controlled. His grace and blessings know no limits. He’s not about portion control when it comes to serving up His love and the promise of an eternity spent together.
My fork friend has encouraged me on more important issues than dietary ones. She is but one of many women I’ve met through bible study that encourage me to stay the course in my faith program despite those days when I slip up. My questionable choices aren't confined to nutrition, and I can tell you from experience it is a lot easier to change eating habits than behavioral patterns. Slipping up on my diet is one thing; slipping up in my Christian walk is a weightier issue. Thankfully, these women help me remember that with God, every day’s a do-over. Because of His grace, we needn’t give up or wallow in shame. We need only seek His help in making better choices next time. We're all a work in progress.
The best IS yet to come - your best, my best and most importantly, HIS best! Grab your fork people!
P.S. I'd like to dedicated this essay to the women in my nutrition group who had the courage to admit they fell off the food wagon this week AND to those in my bible study group who share so openly regarding their Christian faux pas. You're in good company sisters.