No. 393

Have you ever put your foot in your mouth? You are probably saying, "Is the Pope Catholic?" Of course we all have at some time or another. One of the worst cases I can ever remember happened many years ago during a family reunion. This was not too long after Viola and I had married. Everybody was out in the back yard around the picnic tables and there was mounds of good food; I mean fried chicken, ham, dumplings, mashed potatoes, potato salad, baked beans, slaw, all kinds of vegetables, homemade bread and about a dozen different kinds of desserts. It was not long after we started eating and I was bragging on Viola that I made the comment that she was the best cook I had ever known. All of a sudden it got quiet and I looked around and there looking at me was my mother and my grandmother who were not only great cooks, but they had fed me most of my life.
I tried to explain that I meant Viola cooked "fancy dishes" but it was too late. The longer I talked the deeper the hole got. I guess this is where that old saying came from, "The best way to learn anything is the hard way." To be sure I learned a valuable lesson that day and since then I've done my best to think before I speak. I have still made many mistakes, but I can't remember many that were as egregious as that one. The human mind is a wonderful tool that God has given us and this is what came to mind when I was preparing to write this column.
A few weeks ago I received an article in the mail from a person in Colorado titled, "Keep your fork." After reading the article it was obvious this person considered me to be a friend but the only identification was the name Frankton, Co. 80116 and a Denver postmark. It was not signed and my column does not run in this community so I am at a loss at who to thank for it. The article "Keep your fork" contains a story that I had heard many years ago, but never the less is well worth reading and thinking about again. By way of introduction, you no doubt have been to a family reunion, church social, wedding party or even a dinner party at someone's home and as the table was being cleared, the hostess or server leaned over and said, "Keep your fork." This is just another way of saying, the best is still to come.
This brief introduction is the backdrop for a young lady who was dying of cancer and had only a few days to live. When her pastor came by and was discussing her final arrangements she told him that she had a special request. She wanted her casket to be open and a fork placed in her right hand. When the pastor asked her the reason for this final request she said, "My grandmother once told me this story about "Keep your fork" and ever since hearing it, I've tired to pass it along. It is a message of hope and encouragement for others who will also someday die. When people see me lying there in the casket with a fork in my hand, 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 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 pretty dress she was wearing and the fork that was 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 the 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 what it symbolized to her. He told them that he could not stop thinking about the fork and that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. In my case, this pastor was right. Since writing this column, many times when I reach down for my fork it reminds me that the best is yet to come. Friends are very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.
Remember to always be there for your friends because you never know when it may be their time to "Keep the fork." Cherish the time you have and the memories you share... being friends with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility. Send this to everyone you consider to be a FRIEND, even if it means sending it back to the person who sent it to you. AND....ALWAYS keep your fork! (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)