In Our Hearts

DARN-ITTTTTTT . . . For 2020 being 2020, for death being a part of life, for families trying to get their hearts around what their minds are telling them even when it seems most unbelievable, and pastors and staff too. Grief is expansive and inexplicable and real and painful and points to the ability to love deeply because then we hurt deeply, but today that isn’t making a difference. Reasonableness doesn’t stand a chance with me today.

You all know what a good Administrative Asst. means to an organization – not only in capabilities but all the unwritten things they simply take care of without many people noticing but that make a huge difference. We are going through the process of saying goodbye to Karen. We all knew the surgery was serious, heart things usually are, but it was expected to be facilitative of increasing her energy level and ability to breathe, so we were all so happy for her. Then complications. Then a turn for the worse. Then a medication that responded in ways it only responds in less that .01% of cases, and she’s gone from this life way too quickly. And her family and friends and colleagues are left to face into a grief journey that we didn’t ask to enter.

Her little sister came by to pick up her personal items from the front desk and bring some things she used to work from home. We collectively caught our breath because they looked and moreso sounded so much alike and even her hand gestures were remarkably reminiscent. And we all spoke about good things and creativity and hard work and shock and numbness and anger and sadness for kids and grandkids. And she and I agreed that we youngest sisters find ways to get our way even when the oldest is sister is a bit more bossy. And we smiled . . . a little bit. And we’ll go to a safely distant and mask-wearing service in a couple days and be reminded of an eternally gracious God, and we still will not have that presence at that desk for when the Sr. Pastor hollers for ink for the printer, my version of an inter-office intercom, and she knows exactly where it is and what I’m talking about and of course had ordered way earlier than I needed it so it’s there and I say that’s just a little bit of Jesus for me and she rolls her eyes but sparkles nonetheless.

She was the one who did that tree in our hallway last year in October at stewardship time. Remember that one where you all traced around your hands on different colored paper and put your name and a gift you bring to God’s world and those became the leaves? She was the one who did the trunk and the branches and she and Kristi put the leaves on the branches and scattered them along the base so it looked like autumn and my heart was so happy every single time I saw it. Still I smile at the picture and she was so very pleased at how much we loved it. God does that when what we do fills other people’s hearts, I think a real glimpse of eternity.

Between Karen and another friend from long ago Asbury days named Joyce and then RBG, it’s been a tough week. I sat down at Joyce’s service out in DeSoto last Saturday by Rev. Pat and Cliff Flowers, and told Pat I was worried about my mind because I didn’t seem to be tracking reality very well. And Pat, who’s known me longer than anyone might think about knowing someone, patted my knee, looked directly at me, and told me she kinda thought it made sense that I was struggling. So many memories sometimes that push their way through the “task-oriented” intellect of a work-focused sometimes imagination-led still in the deep soul, farm girl.

I am in agreement with the grief counselors who tell us that every death brings back pieces of every other death we’ve experienced through our lives, and that it’s both comprehensive and/but also strengthening with the awareness that we can and will walk forward, hopefully deeper in faith, more attuned to the priority of loving each other and each day as a gift, and relying on God’s healing grace to expand our hearts to love and live risking the hurt for the sake of the joy . . .

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV).

So it is for Karen, for Joyce, for RBG in her own religious faith, and may it be for us as well.