You’d think I’d know by now, know that there’s little you can really plan. Oh, you can make plans but life doesn’t always listen or the hotel says, no, we don’t have a reservation for you. So you ask if they have a room and she says yes and while you’re hurriedly changing clothes to get to the gathering at the funeral home she calls and tells you you’re actually booked at another hotel. Plans.
No one plans to bury their child, no matter how old that child is. You don’t plan to be calling in family and friends or to be flying across the country to her and then flying to a cancer hospital in another state only to take her home one last time. There is no preparation for this but it happens and someone has to lead. For awhile it was the cancer leading, dictating their travel their schedules, their lives. Cancer lead the way into uncharted territory, into the shadow of the valley of death but when it seemed like death had won, their spirit took the lead. For her, for their daughter who named her interior design business Immortal Peace. Their peace, shaky as it was, lead them through this shadow of death.
I remember their arrival to lead our church in 1981. She refers to it as their “Camelot”. It was the perfect fit of young couples waiting for someone to take the lead, someone we could not only follow but learn to lead with them. So they did. And we did. They dreamed big dreams and infused some of the old traditions with new life. They had a vision for ministry and brought us into it wherever we fit.
We were going into jails to visit and sharing the Good News on the streets to prostitutes. We were standing at the Greyhound Bus Station with our horns in full uniform, inhaling all that exhaust and exhaling a message of hope. Few people were ever there but we were.
We had a band before everyone had a band and they were good and they shared Good News. We started a newsletter called The Front Line and shared stories of redemption and grace.
We had cookouts in our backyards and she drove to our house to plant a sign in our front yard announcing to the neighborhood I was turning 30. We shared life together then and today they lead and we shared the way.
They were in the funeral home with their two other children, a small gathering of family and friends mingling about. We hugged and she teared up and I teared up and we decided we’d cry together when we needed to. I stood next to her as others came in to offer words of sympathy. I saw her attention immediately turn to the older women on walkers. Women from the small church they attend. In their retirement years they choose to serve and it was evident as she welcomes them. “She never goes out” she says to me before she leans down to share a hug. These women come first because the least are first in God’s kingdom and she’s sharing that kingdom even in her grief.
We’ve been given assignments for the service. This one is leading the service, another leading two songs, he’s reading selected verses and I’m reading Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer, “in a modern version so their ears will hear it fresh”, he directs. We all will share our memories and connections to their family. Follow the leader.
“Well team”, he says, “you did it.” We are sitting at tables in the small fellowship room of this tiny church. It’s as if we’re in the church where we first met, with him leading as we eagerly follow.
You follow people who bring you into their vision, their dream. You follow people who have a plan, who can give direction. You follow someone who is following the One. It’s hard to explain but when you’re in their presence you know because the spirit of grace, mercy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, and all those things you want in your life, all of those they share as they lead. Yesterday and today.
Linking up with SheLoves Magazine on their monthly topic: lead.