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”.