Another Untimely Death

I knew Ken and had respect for him but had not gotten to know him well.  He was a Pastor who was about a half dozen years younger than I.  He retired early.  He and his wife purchased a retirement home in another state, but he never spent a night in that new home.  The day after arriving in the new location, he entered the hospital and died three weeks later.

Having experienced so recently losing Mary Ann, I can appreciate the pain that his wife and children are in.  They are probably still numb from the swiftness of it.  There are Grandchildren who, gratefully, were baptized by their Grandpa.  They will, of course, miss having him in their lives as they grow.  Any future Grandchildren will know him through pictures and the stories that are told them about him.

While this event and its consequences belong to the family first and foremost, to the congregation he served and those who have known him well, it has produced in me some reflections.  First of all, I am profoundly grateful to have had the privilege of spending two years with Mary Ann all day long every day for the last two years of her life.  The time I was not working away from the house at my profession during the 8 years before that was also time of full attention to our task of dealing with the Parkinson’s together.  I wish she had never had to deal with the disease, but we were drawn together by its presence.

This event has underscored the obvious.  The best-laid plans for the future are only plans.  The future itself is utterly unknown.  We don’t make the future; we live in response to it.  Certainly we can influence its direction should it cooperate.  Preparations make possible things that would not be possible without them.  Still we cannot create the future.  This death challenges my penchant for putting things off.  When will the book actually be completed?  Will it happen, and when will the Pilgrimage to Santiago happen?  Will healthful habits resume?

I will not be able to attend Ken’s funeral since I will be driving to the Oklahoma City area on Friday to do the rehearsal and on Saturday the wedding of one of my favorite Youth (now grown up) from the parish I served there.

Writing the message for that wedding also took me back to the years Mary Ann and I spent together.  As I have said many times before, ours was a very normal marriage with all the challenges that come when two people share a life together.  Not every interaction was filled with sweetness.  We were just ordinary flawed people who hung in with one another.  We were imperfect parents who took very seriously the health and well-being of our children (who turned out better than we could ever have hoped given our imperfect parenting).   Three Grandchildren whom we couldn’t love more (my faith life allows the present tense also for Mary Ann’s love for them) have emerged from the life that Mary Ann and I shared, from our children and their wonderful spouses.  Our life together informs the message that I will share on Saturday.

Last evening provided a reunion with one of the Youth who grew up in the parish from which I most recently retired.  Illness in her family brought her here for a time.  She has done all the preparation and is now on the brink of moving into the profession in which I spent 40 years of my life.  We spent time with the family member who is seriously ill but recovering and then had some time with her Mom and Cousin in relaxed conversation.  It was a time with fears and hopes woven together in the context of confidence in the presence of a Loving Lord.  As I have often experienced, those are moments when time ceases to exist.  All that exists is the present.  That is more than enough.

Later at home there was a very pleasant surprise.  I heard that odd electronic beeping that signaled a video call coming in on Skype.  It was Mate Lawrie from Australia.  We spent quite a while catching up on family and various life issues.  They are in the dead of winter.  It is quite in contrast to the horrendous heat here.  I offered some of our heat to take the edge off their cold.  Actually, the weather there was sunny and pleasant.  We were not able to work out that exchange.  He has a birthday coming this year, one that I can barely remember, although there was a great party with lots of obnoxious gifts when I turned 50 almost twenty years ago.  Lawrie is a great friend, but I still cannot figure out this love for Cricket.  Watching for five days a game that may end in a tie is not my idea of a good time.  Now that Rugby thing – I can get into that (especially if there is a meat pie and some beer to go with it).

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