Of wake-up calls and goodbyes
Posted on November 28th, 2012
oday is my friend’s memorial service.
I first met her eight years ago at the church where she served as a priest. She taught some of the classes for new members. And this church, which will always hold a special place in my heart, attracted more than its fair share of religiously bruised malcontents, so you can imagine the attitudes of some of the attendees. Men and women, tentatively exploring a return to a faith that had been important to them, poked and prodded at the fabric of the flag for which this female priest was the de facto standard bearer. She was plain-spoken and kind, responding to sincere questions thoughtfully. When she sensed a student was provoking rather than exploring, though, sidelining the discussion solely for the purpose of performance, she brought a quick end to the proceedings. She brooked no nonsense.
Before she was a priest, she trained horses. She loved dogs and children. When Roy was baptized, she was there, placing oil on his forehead at the end of the sacrament. She saw to it that Peaches received a blessing in the hospital just hours after her birth.
The first Easter I attended services at this church, I was in the pews before the sun came up. As the congregation read through a collective renewal of our Baptismal vows, I jumped in my seat, surprised. Water had splattered on my book and on my head as I was reading and where was that water coming from?
It was her. As the rector read, she strode up and down the aisles, a mountain of a woman, throwing water on the parishioners, startling them out of whatever comfortable, dry and likely distracted place they had drifted off to during the proceedings.
‘Wake up!’ she seemed to be saying, and with her there was so much more happening than a simple execution of ritual. There was command and even a sense of urgency as she splashed us unwitting congregants about the head and shoulders. ‘Wake up before you miss something—before you miss everything!’
A few years later she retired from the ministry and then she was sick for a long time. She got better, though, and a year and a half ago was able to pack up and move to be near family she’d missed in Texas. Even when she was ill, she never stopped planning for when she wasn’t—the possibility of filling in as a priest where there might be a need and maybe, just maybe, a way back to her beloved horses. She was an example of a life lived in full even when she was too sick to get out of bed.
Wake up, she never stopped saying. It isn’t over yet.∗