Thursday, March 7, 2013

From start to finish . . beginning to end . . . life and death

Yesterday I was thinking about new moms and new babies and raising children.  Today I've been thinking about death.  Working on a church staff, we hear of every death in the congregation.  Today was the "graduation service" of one of our long time members, Mrs. Bettie.  Her daughter called it a graduation rather than a funeral.  She graduated from this life into the next.  I think I like that!  Her daughter also said that they became Methodists because the Methodist church had the earliest service of any of the churches around!  I thought that was so funny.  She said she had asked her mother . . .thinking that there was some great story . . .and that her mother gave her that reply!  As membership secretary of the church, I am the keeper of all records.  In the records, we record all the committees a person serves on and we record some of the Bible studies they participate in and we record the name of their Sunday School class and whether or not they speak a foreign language . . .the list goes on of all the stuff we keep up with (really bad sentence - sorry).  When I pulled up Mrs. Bettie's records, her list was about two pages long.  She was 79 years old and she died of cancer and she lived every moment until she took her last breath.  Just three years ago, right after a diagnosis of a recurrence of her cancer, she travelled to Africa with others from our church on a mission trip.  The folks in Africa couldn't believe how old she was and that she was still alive and still able to work!!!  Mrs. Bettie was married to a man that I never knew.  That man had a son named Jeff who has Down's Syndrome.  Mrs. Bettie raised her step son into a fine man.  She had him in church every time the doors were open.  He has been a greeter and he has been on trips with her and he has helped deliver health & hygiene packets to the Sager Brown Center. (just in case you are wondering, a family in our church is taking him into their home now)  Mrs. Bettie wrote cards to everyone who was in the hospital . . .every week.  (please forgive me - I am just writing . . .I am not creating paragraphs . . .I am just thinking with my fingers.)  Mrs. Bettie sang in the choir until she was unable to do so . . .seems like just a few weeks ago.  She received an award from one of the local tv stations last year for all she had done for others.  Mrs. Bettie never had an answering machine that I know of and she didn't "do" email . . .so she was on all those committees and I could never get in touch with her (that made me laugh out loud as I typed it!!) but she was in the church office quite often so we could tell her!!  Mrs. Bettie evidently helped to plan her funeral.  She knew that the end was near.  She asked for the sanctuary choir to sing . . .and you wouldn't believe how many of them showed up . . .on a Thursday . . .at 1:00 in the afternoon . . .a choir loft full of people who have jobs and careers and lives . . .what a tribute to her.  She asked that they sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of the service . . .and they did!!  They also sang this incredibly gorgeous version of How Great Thou Art (they sang it at Butch's funeral also, I think).  That song makes me cry.  We sang it at my momma's funeral . . .all those years ago . . .when I was a sophomore in high school . . .and it still gets me in my gut.

So . . .I've been thinking about death.  I've been thinking about how surely our friend Butch, who died in November (and I miss her so much!!), greeted Mrs. Bettie at the pearly gates with a giant hug and said, "welcome home."  I imagine Butch had to stand in line behind Jesus because I know he was waiting on Mrs. Bettie and he greeted her with "well done good and faithful servant."  So . . .I've been thinking about death . . .but I think even more importantly, I've been thinking about life.  How am I living my life?  Am I giving all I have for the kingdom?  Am I loving hard enough?  Am I kind enough?  Am I generous enough?  I've been thinking about death . . . .and life.

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