Monday, December 13, 2004

Saying Goodbye

I'm wearing a suit at the office this morning. That is likely to prompt some raised eyebrows. When you come to work at 2 a.m. most co-workers are pleased if you have your shirt on right side out...a suit and tie is an uncommon sight. I must mention this is the same suit I got married in (the first time - 20 some odd years ago). I've gotten about as much use out of this suit as that marriage come to think of it...but I can fit in the suit again - that marriage never fit.

I'm wearing a suit because I'll leave from work, whip by the house to grab Amy and then head up the road to Barbara's funeral. I spent a short time with her husband Charles last night. Charles is a retired Baptist minister but he could have been a military commander...he's known for being very orderly. We kid him about being a control freak. He tends to have everything prepared...even things for which you don't ever want to be prepared. The funeral of your wife is one of those.

He put his arm around me last night and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket where he had neatly typed out the "orders" for Barbara's funeral. It will be a simple, low-key event...that is befitting of Barbara. She led a simple, low-key life and never wanted to draw attention to herself. Even as she was dying from the cruel slow ravages of bone cancer she shunned the spotlight of affection and certainly pity.

There is one part of today's service over which Charles will have no control. It's when people in attendance will be asked to share their stories and thoughts about Barbara. It will be hard and it will be helpful. Those of us who are brave enough to stand and speak aloud will be permitted to grieve by giving our memories to others.

I doubt I will be so brave. I choke up too easily, but I know what I would say if I could muster the courage. I would tell the simple story of Barbara playing the keyboard at our church service one Sunday. Barbara and Charles were relatively new to our church and like many people who had spent their lives in church had settled in on the idea of "letting someone else" run the place this time. Over their lifetimes they had built churches, moved churches, ministered churches, and now they simply wanted to attend a church. Yet one Sunday the keyboard player for our small music team was out and there was no one available to play. It created a momentary panic...until Barbara quietly volunteered the information that she could play the piano "a little." She certainly wasn't familiar with the electronic keyboard we use, nor was she comfortable being in front of the congregation trying to play praise music "cold." Despite her discomfort, she volunteered. She saw a need and felt compelled.

God has asked the same of me many times, mercifully not musically, but much of my spiritual growth has been in response to God essentially saying,"Do these things...they will make you uncomfortable and you will grow closer to Me."

Unlike many Christians I came to God late in life...gradually. It wasn't someone preaching at me or beating me over the head with a Bible that got me to listen to God. It was seeing people like Barbara; people who lived Christ like lives; people who felt God asking them to serve and knew of no other way to respond. I saw those people and said, "I want what they have...I want that sense of purpose and service."

I was privileged to know Barbara and in the process I was able to grow closer to Christ.

I will miss her.