Monday, May 24, 2010

A Passing

We attended a funeral last week. An elderly lady had passed away. Although it’s not true that only the good die young, when a younger person passes away, he leaves friends and survivors so they tend to pack the church.

The same thing happens when the deceased is a celebrity or a head of state: the pews fill to overflowing, passing Christmas and Easter for record attendance. Much of that grief may be obligation but the crowds are impressive, as though their size measures the significance of a life now closed.

When you’ve lived a good long life, there are fewer friends left to send you off. At this service, walkers and canes outnumbered pall bearers, but not by much.

We joined with children, grandchildren and several great grands to note this passing. We sang, we reminisced, we eulogized and then we prayed. One precocious little ‘en did a play-by-play on the colors of the flowers.

Dinner followed. Churches are good at this.

So, who was this lady?

Kay was a backyard neighbor of my in-laws. Her youngest son, Jim, has been Mike’s friend since middle school. He and Mike’s sister Lisa formed one of those small-town, across-the- fence romances that led to marriage and 5 of Kay’s grandchildren. As my kids are about the same ages, when the cousins came to town, there was much jumping over that fence and back.

So to my children, she was Gramma Kay. We are blessed to have our ‘real’ grammas with us but, frankly, I think we can ALL stand all the unconditional love we can get.

I met Kay early in my relationship with Mike; our meeting was unforgettable and typically Kay. When I introduced myself, she smiled warmly, trained her intense brown eyes on mine and said, “I’m so glad to meet you. Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

When I answered that yes, I did, she smiled even wider and offered me some tea. I enjoyed many cups of tea and homemade cookies in her parlor over the years.

Kay was singled-minded in her dealings with people. She was determined to lead as many lost souls to the Lord as He gave her breath. She was unapologetic in her approach. And once you assured her that you were one of God’s children, her focus was to nurture your spirit. When confronted with someone’s problem, she would quote an appropriate scripture and then offer to pray. You did not bring up a challenge without this expected response.

At her passing, Kay had been a widow for 20 years. She and husband Gordon were charter members of Bible Baptist Church in Kokomo. Once, in that parlor, I mentioned that I wished I had some Sunday School-type music to play in the car when I took my kids on errands. It was one of those thinking-out-loud kind of statements as in: I really must go shopping someday and look for some music.

But, it turns out, I never needed to. That evening, Kay and Gordon dug out a case full of records (Google it) and transferred many to cassette tapes. (Google it). These plain black cassettes where then hand lettered: Preschool
(This little light of mine), Elementary(Dare to Be a Daniel) and Middle School Be Ye Doers of the WordThere was another tape with songs based on scripture and one filled with favorite hymns. They packed them into an old shoe box and drove them over. No time to waste, you see.

Kay’s health had been in decline for several years but her pastor reported that whenever he visited her, she would greet him with,” Trust and Obey.” How fitting we sang that old hymn at her funeral.

There is mighty theology in older hymns:

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word
What a glory He spreads on our way
Never fear only Trust and Obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to Trust and Obey.
Then in fellowship sweet

We will sit at His feet

Some funerals are times of deepest grief. For me, Kay’s was a victory lap. She had run the good race. She had finished the course.

As we sat there, I had no doubt that she was standing by her Savior, with His arm around her shoulder.

And she was singing.

And she is singing.