I know that I only just said that this blog would henceforth be dedicated to sermons and liturgically related works, but tonight I find myself in the need to write.
Two months ago, almost exactly, I contacted my soon-to-be Field Ed supervisor to check in on the status of my housing arrangements for my summer in Peoria (where I am interning as part of my seminary education). You see, a critical part of my contract with the church in Peoria is that the church provide rent free or low rent housing for the summer, so that I don’t end up spending more in housing costs than the small stipend I will be receiving at the end of the summer. Much to the delight of me and my supervisor, the best possible candidate stepped forward. An elderly couple, Glenn and Dee, a retired reverend and his wife, offered their guest room and bathroom, as well as access to the rest of their home, for my use this summer.
This was as beneficial for them as it was for me, because they would be leaving for Uruguay just days before I was to arrive in Peoria, so I could act as live-in house sitter–watering plants, collecting mail, etc–while they were away. Glenn and Dee would spend six or so weeks serving as interim pastors to a church in Uruguay that Glenn had been the pastor of years ago. Glenn and Dee have had many such adventures in their lifetime. They have served in appointments all over the world! Unfortunately, I was only able to spend a few hours with Glenn and Dee on my drive home at the end of the spring semester, so I have only heard a few of their many tales so far.
But now tragedy has struck.
Two days ago, I received word that Glenn had had to have emergency surgery. It seems that when Glenn had his appendix removed as a young man the scar tissue left on his small intestine cause the intestine to burst a few years later. They repaired it then and Glenn hadn’t thought much of it for decades, but sometime over the course of the past week, that old wound reopened. Being a much older man, and being in less than optimal circumstances in Uruguay, Glenn’s prognosis was grim.
Still, his spirits held. The church rallied together to hold a prayer vigil and the staff has tried to stay as up-to-date as international phone calls and emails could allow.
But it was not enough. It was, as it turns out, Glenn’s time to go home to the Lord.
I received word about an hour and a half ago that Glenn had passed.
And I sit here with so many emotions reeling around in my head. I don’t know what to do or what to say. I don’t know if I am more upset than I should be or not upset enough. I both feel as though I didn’t know him at all and, because I have been living in their home for five weeks, as though I am intimately connected to him and this family. I wonder whether it is more appropriate for me to stay to comfort and care for Dee when she returns, or to give her privacy to mourn and find somewhere else to stay for my remaining weeks in Peoria. I wonder whether it is inappropriate for me to leave on Sunday for the youth mission trip (probably not entirely, but I also don’t have much of a choice this late in the game). I feel majorly uncomfortable with the fact that I am sitting in their home mourning for this loss and they are not here.
There is so much about this situation that is unique and bizarre. There is so much than in unexpected and even now unpredictable.
These are not circumstances that a seminary education can prepare you for.
I’m not sure that anything could have prepared me for these circumstances.
And yet, ultimately, this is not about me. This is about a woman who has lost her husband, about children who have lost their father and grandfather, about congregations around the world who have lost a dear friend and brother. The world has lost a dear, dear saint of God today. And, I think, that ultimately I sit here with tears rolling down my face likes rivers, because I have lost the opportunity to hear about an amazing life of extraordinary ministry from one of the most wonderful men I will have the chance to encounter in this life.
Glenn, as I join with you family and friends to face the coming days, I am brought hope in this thought: You have touched my life in remarkable ways in such a short time and with limited access to one another and I can only imagine the depth of impact that you have had on the people you have know. When my time comes, I hope to have even a fraction of that impact on the world.
My dear friend, may God bless you and keep you. May God make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you. May God give you final and everlasting peace.