Pleasant Surprises on the Journey

 

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Sometimes our journeys allow us to experience a pleasant surprise. Our family likes to travel to the coast to spend some time relaxing as we walk along the beach looking out into the ocean. If we look long enough, and stay extremely patient, we might get to experience a pleasant surprise. Maybe a group of dolphins will show themselves as they jump from the water. Maybe a curious shark will cause us to walk a little further away from the water than we were first planning. Though dangerous, they are beautiful creatures. More fascinating to me is the beauty of a sunset or sunrise over the water, as the sky turns red and the sun begins to extinguish for the night. Pleasant and wonderful surprises.

As I have told you before, one part of my journey includes the opportunity I have to be a Bereavement Coordinator with hospice. As part of my job I get to experience memorial services for families who have watched their loved one gradually decline in health until they finally make that Holy transition to another life. Most of the time I haven’t had the chance to meet the families until the day of the funeral. I get to hear some pretty incredible stories as I picture the person in my mind.

Sometimes I get the chance to experience a pleasant surprise. Such was the case this past week. I was given the name of a person who had passed away and the daughter who was the bereaved. I made the call to the daughter expressing how sorry I was her mother had passed and how we would be contacting her and supporting her in her grief. As I hung up the phone, something felt really strange. I felt as if I knew the person on the other end of the phone. The name, the voice, even the name of her mother that was written on the paper in front of me. As I stared at the name on the paper, my mind began to try and figure out the puzzle that was developing in front of me. Why is this name so familiar? Where have I heard the name before? I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. Was it the name of a friend from school years past? Was it a friend I knew whom I had forgotten? Nothing. I just could not figure it out and I was really struggling with this. The pause button had been pressed on my daily job as I tried to sort things out.

I have a friend who I felt might know the person so I sent a quick text and waited for the response. After a few minutes, my phone lit up and I read the answer. Immediately I remembered who the person was I was talking to on the phone. About 29 years ago, when I was a student in seminary, a church called me to be their minister of music and youth. I had an opportunity to direct a wonderful group of singers, and a more wonderful group of people. On the front row of the choir sat the woman whom I just spoke with on the phone. ¬†Twenty-nine years younger, but I remembered her face and I remembered her sitting on the front row with a beautiful soprano voice. Twenty-nine years ago she sang with me. Twenty-nine years ago I sang at her wedding. Twenty-nine years later I am praying for her in one of the toughest times in her life. Twenty-nine years later I am sitting in a memorial service, watching as she says good-bye to her mom. I went to the funeral and reconnected. It was great to see her again, even if it was at a time of grieving the loss of her mother. It was indeed a pleasant surprise on my journey in life. Sometimes, if we are patient and observant, God will allow us to experience some wonderful and pleasant surprises that will lift our spirits and help us gently whisper, “thank you”.

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Taking Time to Pause On My Own Journey

 

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“Sleep well my sister, we’ll see you again in the morning.” The words woke me from my mind wondering and reflecting. I was at work today doing one of the things I get to do as a bereavement coordinator. I was attending the funeral of a former patient who had died at the young age of 95. She was a spirit-filled church goer, according to those who spoke. She loved music, which the choir provided with lots of energy. She had a strong family which attended in a large number. It was a beautiful sight. Everything seemed to be in order. I guess that’s why I felt free to reflect.

Sitting in the back pew of the church, wearing my name badge and providing support through my presence, I got lost in my thoughts about this past week-end. It started on Thursday morning when I learned a man who attended my church had died. He wasn’t 95. He was 52. It wasn’t expected and there weren’t family members gathered at the bedside. He laid back on his bed and died.

I spent Thursday making sure the family was supported, the funeral plans were taken care of and my funeral message was prepared. Friday I had the chance to go to a family reunion with about 24 family members. We laughed until we cried, we sang songs and played instruments. We also ate more then we should. We had a great time. I traveled back and had the service on Sunday. The service was completed and everything went the way it was supposed to go.

Today, my mind focused on my friend. He. too, was a wonderful person. He didn’t attend church every Sunday. He did enjoy music, especially blue grass music. He enjoyed watching other deer hunters hunt and he enjoyed hearing the dogs bark. He drove different people different places in his truck. He was a friend to many as was shown by the gathering at his funeral on Sunday. It was a pleasure to officiate at his service. It was sad that he left us at such a young age. I wish I had more answers to that question but I don’t.

I guess it was all of this that allowed my mind to begin to wonder today. I was able to reflect. I didn’t have part in today’s service except to provide support through my presence. I used the time to think back to my friend as the pastor talked about his friend who was 95. As he was proclaiming what he appreciated about his friend, I was able to reflect on what I appreciated about my friend. I caught myself smiling. Nothing was funny, but my reflections allowed me to smile.

I was glad the preacher’s words brought me back to the service in time to hear what he said. I needed to hear the service end with those words. It was a beautiful ending. As the family was led out by the pastor, he reached and shook my hand. I am sure he did this at every funeral, but I felt as though I was shaking hands with a fellow pastor. As I shook his hand, he smiled at me and I smiled at him. He did not know me and I did not know him. There was one thing I did know. After the service was over, when he got back to his home, he was going to take the time to reflect on his friend, just as I had done today. I looked at him and smiled as if to say “thank you.” He smiled back as if to say “you’re welcome.” I thought back one more time to this week-end and I ended my thoughts the way he ended the service. “Sleep well my friend, I’ll see you in the morning.” Amen