Sunday, September 2, 2012

Awed by God

This is a title I could use for so many posts - because I truly find myself living my life awed by God.

It is Sunday morning and I am getting ready to go to church for Labor Day worship. I am not preaching - instead Melissa and Sarah Beth will talk about "Faith in the Workplace" - how their faith affects their life at work. I look forward to it.

We can start there. Tuesday morning - which is always the beginning of my week - I looked ahead to the freedom of not preaching and the extra time that it gives during the week and wondered who to visit, whether to go to my regional minister's mother's funeral on Friday, what the week would look like

It was at 9 am that I looked at my cell phone and heard a message from Sharon Daniels that Bob was dying. Sharon is a former parishioner in Bowling Green and over the years since we lived there has remained a friend. She and Bob have gone on cruises with us and Bob and Chuck talk and golf. Sharon's minister was going on vacation - taking his oldest to college this weekend and Bob was dying and what was she going to do.

I called the minister and we decided that I was going to do the funeral. It has been almost 9 years since I served that church and it seemed right. And for me and Chuck it began a very holy week. I worked at Karl Road Church Tuesday morning and we drove to BG (2 hours drive) and arrived at hospice literally a moment after Bob took his last breath. The whole family was there and their good friends Marcia and Ernie. We were able to just be with Sharon during those next 5 hours. I remember when my mother died and how strange it is immediately afterward - just to know what to do. Because in many ways there is nothing to do - you have to eat and start to tell people and just process that this has happened. And that is what we did. We went out to eat and watched the video from their 50th anniversary and looked at pictures and talked a little about the funeral. We laughed and cried. I was just glad to be present. And grateful for Chuck who was with me. We returned home Tuesday night.

There was some planning of the funeral over the phone and via email. Thursday night we drove to Catawba where Mary Ann and Bill have a condo on the lake and it was what I needed and Chuck needed. Mary Ann and I walked every morning for years when I was in BG and we had not seen each other for about 5 years. To say it was a blessing to be with her and Bill is an understatement. It was a gift - and I thank God for her hospitality and her love.

Friday I went to BG and met with the family and started to work on the funeral. I went back to the church where I served for 13 years and worked in the secretary's office. It is all very strange to go back to a place that was home that is different and yet the same. I saw a number of people and was able to catch up. Everyone was so happy that I was doing the funeral and so was I. Even the funeral director was surprised because when I left I had been clear that I was unable to come back for anyone. But these circumstances seemed to be God led.

Bob Daniels was really an ordinary man - in that he did not graduate from college, worked at the phone company, retired at 52. He came from a large and poor family.
And Sharon shared how very difficult their first years were for them financially.
However, Bob had a big heart and really loved to help people. He loved baseball - actually all sports - and coached and traveled. They were members of lots of organizations. Anyway - over 400 people came to the calling hours and over 200 to the funeral. And at least 150 at the funeral lunch that was an hour after the funeral. It was an outpouring of love.

I actually wrote the funeral address gradually - beginning it in Columbus, working on it Friday afternoon at the church and finishing it Friday evening at Mary Ann's.
And I felt - as I often do - that God was guiding me throughout it. What really struck me at the end was the "poverty" of the beginnings of Bob's life and the enormous "wealth" - in love and friends at the end.

And then Saturday at the luncheon both Chuck and I were so happy to see so many people that we knew from our years in BG. Everyone was older - including us - but we all told each other how good we looked. I heard a lot of stories of what has happened in the meantime and felt blessed by the way people shared their lives with me. For some folks - it was clear - it was really good to touch base with me and what we were together. I felt overwhelmed and blessed by the afternoon.

And at the end - of course - exhausted by it all.

But in reflection I see God's hand through it all - bringing me to people that needed me, bringing me to people I needed, giving me words that gave comfort and clarity, bringing a community together to help a grief stricken family and to celebrate a life that was lived well.

I say this so often - I am awed by God and the way that God leads us and feeds us and comforts us.


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