Friday, December 14, 2007
This afternoon a delivery truck brought a replacement phone for our son, who had somehow broken his old one, and, since the week has been a dreary one for the church as well as for our own family, I was glad to open it and hear its cheerful ring tone.
Almost three weeks ago, on a Sunday evening that was cool and dark, yet fair somehow, we gathered in a warm family room, the bottom story of a recently renovated old milk barn out in the country, all the members of the church choir. We ate warm soup--home-baked bread, cheese, dessert--and we sang and sang, practicing the Christmas cantata. Our hosts, Ken and Carolyn, deacons of the church, were gracious, and we felt a peace that only comes when old friends meet...no strain of keeping up pretenses or small-chatting one's way through the coffee. As we arrived, Ken made sure nobody tripped on the little step at the entrance. "Watch that step there. Here, let me take your coat." It was a time to treasure, particularly in light of this week.
Last Sunday morning we awoke to drizzle. We knew that the weather was supposed to turn ugly later on, but thought little of it. There was not any ice yet. By the time I arrived at church, however, sleet was falling and the deacons were discussing whether to cancel services.
It happened quickly. First, David, a member of the worship team, slid on the ice as he left his front step to walk across the street for choir practice. Ken drove him to the hospital, and my husband, the pastor, accompanied them. After they delivered David into the care of the emergency room, while he sat in the vehicle, Ken began to feel faint. In the emergency room his blood pressure plummeted. The ambulance to the city took longer than usual because of the ice storm, but it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. Little by little we heard snatches of news--a three-centimeter tear in an aortic aneurism. He was conscious most of the day and was able to see all of his children and grandchildren and talk to them. Around eight-thirty that evening they decided to try a surgery, but offered little chance. We all knew the surgery would last four hours...so we waited...and nobody wanted the phone to ring.
But it did.
For the fourth time that day we called everybody in the church. People picked up their phones, hung them again, and their stooping shoulders told the news to their families. It was over.
Today we buried Ken. We followed him to the graveside and laid him into the arms of God. It was cold, rainy, and made easier by so many people hugging each other and wiping tears and sharing smiles as they remembered how this gracious giant of a man had lived a life that glorified God. And the church still smells of flowers.
"So what happened to this phone?" I asked my son, as I packed its mangled body into the mailing envelope for the return. "I don’t know," he replied, somewhat puzzled himself. "I had it in my hand when I heard the news about Brother Ken."
It's going to snow tonight. And peacefully the flakes will fall...softly.
I'm ready for the snow.