Monday, October 26, 2009
Once More, The Way It Was
I returned on Sunday to the church where I grew up in more ways than chronological, where my mother worked and where we buried my Dad, and where The Dean and I were married 16 years ago.
We were there to honor our former pastor, being (installed? named?) as Pastor Emeritus. He served as its Pastor for 42 years, and I realized, somewhat incredulously, that I was there for 30 of them.
We listened as our Pastor spoke to us once more. And in just a few short words and phrases, in a cadence slowed by the effects of a stroke but still resonating to the rafters, he gave us everything that he gave us then.
The reassurance that even though "life throws you curveballs - watch me," (he is wheelchair-bound now), it is what we make of our life and our situation that matters. That in the darkness, we can strike a new match of opportunity and move forward in its light. (His words, not mine.)
He reminded us of one of his famous sayings: "It's not your aptitude, but your attitude, that determines your ... ?" He waited.
"Altitude!" more than a few of us answered.
He made us laugh as he laughed at himself. "I tell myself that all the time, but I'm hard of hearing."
And more than a few of us (myself included), wiped away tears as he thanked us for all that we'd given to him, for the memories that he admitted were fuzzy but important nonetheless. We realized that this might be goodbye, that it could likely be the last time we would see and hear him in this place, in his church (for it will always be his church, regardless of who is in the pulpit) that he himself single-handedly founded on October 25, 1956, exactly 53 years ago yesterday.
He is the author of several inspirational books, including one titled, Me - Do I Really Matter? And there was a time when he was justified in asking that question. There are times when we all are.
So much of who I am and what I believe is because of him. As one of my contemporaries who spoke during the service said, "Aside from my parents, you had the biggest influence on my life."
Amen to that, I nodded, for the same is true of myself.
Over cake, I chatted with friends I hadn't seen in years; to a person, we found ourselves saying the same thing, as if our saying it out loud made it real. How wonderful the day was, how inspirational, how much our pastor shaped our lives.
We are the people we are because of him.
We have been blessed.