If the collective weight of grief could collapse a church, we’d be calling the insurance company already.
Shirley, how can we be so happy for you and so very sad for ourselves? It’s selfish, we know, but sorrow is weighing on us tonight like a leaky roof at the church home where you worked, worshipped, and plumb wore yourself out.
You got up this morning – this very morning – and brushed your hair, put on those sensible shoes you always wore. Adjusted your glasses.
You turned the news on, loud enough to follow the story of those hours of terror in Turkey yesterday. You always cared, deeply, about the Middle East. You and your beloved Warren poured yourself out there decades before we knew you.
Right there in your townhome as the Midwestern sky brightened over Windemere you put the bacon in the pan, turned the burner up, and then?
What was it like, Shirley, that incredible moment this morning when you saw Him?
Your pastor talked about it just a week or two back: the certainty of the resurrection, our sure and certain hope. That moment when we will meet Jesus face to face.
You preached it all your life, friend. Lived it, too, here and in Pakistan and around the world every day with the missionaries you shepherded.
You wrote them, interceded for them, mothered them in ways too many to count. You cared for our children, herded them out on Sundays, mature enough to be their great-grandma. You planned events for our seniors since past the respectable age of 85 you still hadn’t become one yet yourself. You never ever stopped working, serving, giving, praying.
So when just past noon today your pastor, no, wait a minute –your ministry partner, advisee, spiritual son – told me, tears grabbing at his throat, that you’d suddenly left us, I shouted no. No. NO! Not Shirley!
Bellowed so loud I scared my coworkers two doors down.
Because don’t you remember that conversation we had a while back? The one about retirement?
How are we ever going to express our gratitude, I said, when you’ll never retire? That’s when people get to say nice things, pay you back for all you’ve done, even the score a bit.
You just laughed. “Retirement’s not a word in the Bible,” you said. And even if it was I suspect maybe you’d skip that part.
So here’s the joy that has me marveling as darkness falls on the day you left us, Shirley.
That retirement party? Those accolades we always wanted you to receive? That gold watch and the pat on the back?
It happened today. You heard the only words you ever cared to hear in your very long life loving and serving Him.
“Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Well done, beloved friend.