A quarter of a century ago this guy came into our lives. Happy Birthday Andrew!
Nearly 6 years ago I wrote a post about how Pastor Keith helped us through our father’s death and I shared the amazing sermon he gave at my father’s funeral. I’m here now to let you know that he did it again, this time at my mother’s memorial service. We were not entirely sure this would be possible because Pastor Keith moved from my mother’s church to a different church, but since Mom was so fond of Pastor Keith and she’d never met the interim pastor at her church until she was on hospice care, Kevin and I (mostly Kevin) made sure Pastor Keith was able to be involved.
A few days before the memorial service Pastor Keith called to get some ideas for the sermon. We talked about mom’s qualities, about her illness, about her friends, about Kevin’s upcoming wedding. I also shared with Pastor Keith the dream I had the night my mother died.
Without further comment, here’s his sermon:
Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Patrick (February 16, 1936–August 26, 2016)
Texts: John 14:1–4 and Romans 8:18–21
Preached: September 9, 2016 at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, St. Charles, Illinois
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, in whose house are many, many rooms, and from Christ Jesus, who has gone to prepare a place for us. AMEN
I’m grateful to Pat Patrick’s family, and to Pr. Michael Rothaar, for inviting me to participate in this service for Pat Patrick this evening. I was Pat’s pastor for five years, and she holds a special place in my heart. Pat was the only parishioner I’ve had, and I suspect will be the only parishioner I ever will have, who invariably as she was leaving worship on a Sunday morning would bow her head in front of me as she was leaving the service and… would kiss my ring. I don’t know for sure how that started, but she did it week in and week out. Someone a couple of years ago noticed her doing this, and privately afterwards said, “Pastor, do you think that’s a sign of the Alzheimer’s?” And I had to laugh and say, “No, no, not at all, she was doing that long before that became an issue! That’s just Pat.” And even after her mind became clouded, she never failed to kiss my ring, and then would smile sweetly and somewhat slyly at me. There was a delightful, childlike quality about her, an almost pixie-like quality, that enabled her to look at the world with wonder, and to laugh that infectious laugh, and to get away with some slightly goofy behaviors that only she could get away with. You can see that delight in the photos of her as a young woman—still a girl, really—as she looks up adoringly at Elvin as he embraces her. Even when she went through trying times across the years, through difficulties and challenges and losses, she still kept that air of eagerness, that spirit of amazed wonderment.
Earlier this week, Pat’s daughter Dona shared with me an experience she had the night of Pat’s death that I think in some way captures that quality. Dona had finally gone to bed that night, sleeping near Pat’s bed, knowing that the end of this life was not far off. As she slept, Dona began to dream. And in her dream, she saw Pat get up out of bed, all dressed in white. There were windows all around. It wasn’t Kevin’s house, but some other place. And in the dream, Pat kept heading toward the windows, drawn like a moth to a flame. She would get up close to a window, and would stand with her hands behind her back like a child who has been told not to touch something very precious, standing up on her tiptoes, straining delightedly, expectantly to see what there was on the other side of the glass, as though there were something of great beauty and fascination to be seen that she couldn’t quite make out. She went from window to window, trying to get a clearer view. Others in the dream kept coming and trying to tug Pat back to her bed, but she couldn’t be held back…she kept going back to the window to stand on tiptoes. Finally, someone took hold of her and pushed her into Dona’s arms, but not even that could keep her from the irresistible attraction of the sight she was straining to see. And suddenly, she broke free from Dona’s grasp, and instantly was transformed into sparkles of light. And at that moment, Dona awoke, and Kevin told her that their mom was gone.
When I heard that account, I was immediately reminded of some verses of scripture, actually verses that come just before the very same passage that Pr. Rothaar read a few moments ago from the Letter to the Romans. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to people who were going through profoundly difficult struggles in their lives, people who were being persecuted and even killed, people who needed to hear a word of hope and encouragement, people who were unsure about what might lie in store for them. And in the verses that we heard, there is that stirring affirmation that not even death itself, not even life itself, can hold us back from the love that God shows to us in Christ Jesus. Those are amazing words to hear. We can have confidence in them. But now I want you to hear what Paul had to say just before those words. These verses come from another translation that I think captures something very important, and it’s why what Dona had to say caught my attention. Listen to them:
18-21 In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18–21, J.B. Phillips Version)
“The whole creation is on tiptoe…” Most translations give a very dry, “The creation waits with eager longing,” but the original Greek word there is actually very picturesque, describing the whole head being stretched forward, trying to see something wonderful that is about to come. And that is what I pictured when I heard Dona describe her mother in that dream, darting from window to window, standing on tiptoe, hands behind her back, craning to peek into those rooms Christ has prepared to see the wonderful sight of the future God has planned for her and for us. As the children of God, we need have no fear of death, because we have the incredible assurance that death is not the end, that there is resurrection life that will be even more wonderful than anything we’ve experienced so far, when “the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” We can approach even our own mortality with expectancy and hope.
Now I can’t tell you exactly what lies just the other side of the glass. Scripture says that right now we see only in a darkened, obscure way, only catching a pale reflection of the glory that will be. But Jesus often gives us word pictures of what God’s fully realized reign will look like, as did the prophets before him, and one of my favorite images is of a wedding banquet, a great feast where there is joy and laughter, where there is plenty for all, where the wine flows freely and the food is abundant, where all those who have struggled, all those who have experienced sorrow and crying, all those who have suffered in body or mind, will be brought in as welcome guests to enjoy the fullness that God has intended for each of us from the very beginning of creation, brought to sit at the banqueting table in their rightful places as beloved children and heirs of God.
I couldn’t help thinking of that picture on this evening, knowing that tomorrow Kevin and Connie, along with some of the same folks gathered in this room tonight to mourn, will be feasting and dancing as they celebrate their marriage to one another at their own wedding banquet. Yes, it’s a contrast, but I think it’s a beautiful expression of a very deep truth: Even in our profoundest sorrow, we can stand on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting joy. And as I picture Pat standing at the window, up on her tiptoes, I think maybe what she was glimpsing was that great marriage feast that will have no end, where she will join with all those claimed by God as God’s own beloved children, completely restored in body, completely restored in mind, sorrows forgotten, tears dried, and infectious laughter ringing out in wondering delight at the magnificent gift of life and freedom that is hers as a daughter of God claimed by Christ Jesus in baptism. And I picture her bowing her head and kissing in gratitude the hand of the one who has invited her to the feast, then looking up and smiling that sweet smile. And that, sisters and brothers, is very, very Good News. Thanks be to God. AMEN
in 2006 I discovered a group of people who wrote snippets about other people they knew using the number of words they’d been on Earth. I thought it sounded like fun and began my own 365 blog. The very first person to comment on my work went by the nickname “Indigo Bunting”. For those of you who are not familiar with common bird names, an indigo bunting is a beautiful blue bird (often mistaken for a bluebird).
Indigo Bunting said there were a couple of reasons she was interested in my posts. One was that she’d lived in my hometown in the 1980s. Another was that she knew two other women who spelled their name the same way I did. A third was that she once lived in a town a couple towns over from where I know live. I was in awe of her way with words and immediately began reading her 365 from the beginning. The way she shaped her sentences and phrases taught me a thing or two about short-writing.
Eventually many of the core group of the original 365 group started new blogs and we followed each other to those. Indigo Bunting is slightly less prolific on her own blog than she is in commenting on other people’s blog posts. I don’t know how she does it — nearly every time I read someone’s blog post, Indigo has already been there and written the perfect comment.
Her blog is so well written — usually humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always highly readable.
Not only is Indigo a remarkable writer, she is also a birder, an editor, a skater (ice and roller), a fly fisher person, and expert on fly fishing, a lover of roller derby and she can still turn cartwheels like a kid.
Happy Birthday Indigo Bunting! Best wishes for the coming year. Live long and write lots of blog posts.
Not mentioned in the previous post is that Clare was scheduled to arrive while we were at the rehearsal dinner. Mom and her friend Richard were scheduled to pick her up at 7:30 on Friday night. She called at 3 or so to tell us she’d missed her flight and would not fly in until around 5 am the following day. Dean, great dad that he is, volunteered to wake up before dawn to drive to the airport to pick up his daughter.
I was able to sleep until 7 or so when Clare, after eating a Dad-made breakfast, climbed into bed next to me. We chatted a while, but I knew she was sleepy so I left her to sleep while I started my day.
We (except for Dean) again lazed around the house until it was time to get ready for the wedding. No one was completely satisfied with what they’d brought to wear to the wedding (except for Dean — but I was not satisfied with what he brought) so some grumpiness ensued during the getting ready part of the day.
When we arrived at the church in Burlington we were dismayed to realize we were about a half-hour late. I’d forgotten to bring the invitation and we were given the wrong time (but we forgive you D.). We watched the end of the ceremony in the back room with Sheri and Jude, Dean’s nephew’s wife and son.
We had time to spare between the wedding and reception so drove around the countryside for a while. It always reminds me of Sunday afternoons in my youth when we’d drive my Grandma Patrick around and she’d exclaim at the state of a chicken coop or the new paint job of a barn on farms on which she used to live.
The reception was held at Randall Oaks Country Club. We sat with Diane, Dean’s sister, Mert, Dean’s cousin and her husband Tom. Also at our table were the pastor and the organist of the church where the wedding took place. The pastor had been pastor at the church we’d spent many Christmas Eves, so we had things to talk about.
Oh — I forgot to mention that the wedding was held on Dean and my 28th wedding anniversary. We were honored with our own dance — to the Anniversary Waltz.
My favorite part of the reception was watching the flower girls and their cousins dancing as you will see in the photos below.
Here are some photos from the evening.
My oldest child turns 21 today. No longer a child (although she hates when I say that). Although I can remember life before her, I have a hard time remembering a time when I didn’t know her. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s quirky (in a good way). She’s talented. She’s simply amazing. She’s my daughter. Happy 21st birthday, Clare.
Just a quick post to let you know we survived the earthquake on August 23. I was sitting at my computer in my attic office when the desk began to shake. My first thought was — as it always is when my desk shakes — EARTHQUAKE. Then I thought it was probably construction or a truck driving down the street. Then it got stronger and I thought, EARTHQUAKE! Then I thought, YAY! EARTHQUAKE ON MY BIRTHDAY. Then I thought, SAVE THE KIDS! and ran downstairs to tell the kids, who were running around the house yelling, EARTHQUAKE!! to get outside, NOW!
They went out the back door and I went out the front door. We all met in the front yard along with all the neighbors who were home at that time. Everyone was asking, DID WE JUST HAVE AN EARTHQUAKE?
Later, after we went back into the house and confirmed that we did, in fact, have an earthquake, the kids named it a birthday quake. We assessed the damage:
It was delicious.
My Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jack live a quiet existence in a town in Northeastern Mississippi. Their days usually consist of watching game shows, talk shows and the hunting channel on television, watching barges going up and down the Tenn-Tom Waterway outside their window or cooking healthy meals. Every few days they take a ride either North or South on Highway 25 for groceries, appointments or other errands.
The town of Fulton is to the North of their house — whose high school is most recently known for canceling prom before letting a lesbian attend with her girlfriend then staging a fake prom to humiliate her.
To their south is a town they like to visit called Amory. In between their house and Amory is a tiny town called Smithville (but pronounced “Smithvul” “Smifful” [thanks Kelli]), which, as Dean noted last week when we visited Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jack, has little to offer than a Dollar Store. Uncle Jack pointed out the post office when we drove past and we also noticed a Piggly Wiggly.
Last week a strong storm — possibly a tornado — went through Smithville and Uncle Jack took us for a ride to see the damage. We saw several trees down and the local hardware store’s metal roof had been blown off and was lying on the ground next to the building.
Yesterday afternoon a massive tornado hit the town and finished off the hardware store, destroyed the post office and heavily damaged both the Dollar Store and the Piggly Wiggly. Aunt Ginny said she saw it going up the waterway and thought it was headed towards her house so she and Uncle Jack took shelter.
While Smithville is nowhere near Bethesda — this is the closest I’ve come to this kind of destruction, having seen the town intact a little over a week ago. My heart goes out to the residents of the town and all other towns affected by the storms yesterday.
I didn’t always dislike Valentine’s Day. In elementary school, when we used to exchange Valentine’s Day cards, I remember being excited to chose particular cards for whatever boy I happened to like that year and to read more into the messages of the cards I received from those same boys than was actually there. The mere act of inserting the small white envelopes into the handmade “mail boxes” of each student was exciting as was opening each card and reading the name on the back, then taking them home and sharing my excitement with my mom after school.
When I was a teacher, Valentine’s Day was one of those days that we often turned over to “room mothers” for planning, at least in public school. It was always a party day and the kids got high on too much sugar and anticipation. It was nowhere near as bad as Halloween (or the day after Halloween).
When I was a mother of young children, the days preceding Valentine’s Day created an anxiety in me second only to Halloween. At least I didn’t need to create two costumes. I did, however, have to make sure my kids got exactly the Valentine’s Day card packs to send their friends then get after them to write their names on the cards and address them to the children in their classes. I also often needed to send in a baked product for the Valentine’s Day party.
My husband and I usually exchange cards and small gifts on Valentine’s Day and I sometimes make a special meal for him. His cards are usually silly ones and mine used to be romantic. Last year his was romantic and mine was silly. We never go out for Valentine’s Day but we did once and it was a disaster.
It was when we were first dating and I assumed that all couples went out for Valentine’s Day — like it was an unwritten law. He, however, didn’t think this way and felt pushed into a situation in which he was uncomfortable. The evening was memorable in that my date was obviously angry for being there. After that I never pressured him into celebrating Valentine’s Day and this year I said we should do nothing. No cards. No flowers. No chocolates. No special meal either — he has Tae Kwon Do tonight.
Note: I wrote this in June. I’m trying to either post my drafts or delete them. It should have gone just before this post.
I vividly remember the days before my mom and dad’s 25th wedding anniversary. I was just 23 and thought I was supposed to throw them a party. The reason I thought this was because when their friends, the Pasholks, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary their 5 kids planned it all. At 23, I had no idea how to plan such an event, didn’t know who to talk to to ask for help, so didn’t do anything, except feel guilty about it. In the end, the Pasholks threw them a party and I didn’t attend, out of guilt.
Back then it seemed that people made a big deal about milestone anniversaries. Maybe they still do and we just don’t hang with the right crowd, but I don’t know of any of our friends who has had a party to celebrate.
We’re celebrating quietly tonight — Dean made reservations at Georgia Brown’s, a restaurant I’d not heard of, but sounds wonderful and the kids are joining us for dinner. At first I thought that it should just be Dean and me, but we have many years of going out alone ahead of us, I thought it would be nice if the kids came too.
Note: We had a nice time at Georgia Browns, but were not impressed with the food. It was nice hanging out as a family.