We learned early Thursday morning this week that a dear friend went home to Jesus. Richard was an intrepid nearly 90 years old with a heart for Jesus and a love of worship. He sang in our Christmas choral worship program and I deeply admired his commitment to the Lord and to this choir that worked hard together to give God all the glory we possibly could give. When it came time to present the worship music at three different assemblies he and I entered from the same side of the stage. Between presentations as he waited to enter he would sit quietly breathing oxygen from tanks he kept ready in the wings. When it was time to enter he was up, ready, walking unsteadily to his spot, unable to see much, but guided by friends and his desire to worship Jesus to his place on the platform. Richard memorized his part of the music by listening over and over to rehearsal tapes. I’m sad to say that I never managed to memorize all of the words to our choral presentation, but Richard did! He had the music down pat and was able to fully enter into the worship of the Lord through those words and notes embedded in his heart. Richard also used this technique to support his ministering on the Sunday morning worship team at our church. Every week, unless he was out of town or ill, he was a steadfast member of the 8:15 worship team.
In the wake of Richard’s death I’ve learned more about the early years of his life and added to my well of admiration for this man. He was a courtly man who dearly loved his wife RobinJeanne and in her grief she continues to live out her deep love of Jesus and the abundant joy and praise she expresses in each situation. His life wasn’t easy – he lost two wives to death in his earlier years—but his life was filled with joy and abundance and blessing from and to the Lord.
On Friday morning I went with Steve to visit with RobinJeanne and Richard’s daughter Patricia to find out how we could help support them in crafting a celebration of life that would both honor Richard and glorify Jesus. I spent the rest of the day pulling music, creating a projection program, rehearsing with the family worship team and preparing to participate in the memorial service that will happen later today. I thought of Becky’s memorial service off and on throughout the day and how dear friends from Suburban had worked with us long distance to prepare the celebration of her life and her Lord so many short months ago.
After the rehearsal as we prepared to leave the church Steve said to me “We sang a couple of those songs exactly a year ago today.” I was caught short. I knew we had sung a couple of the same songs for Becky’s memorial, but it hadn’t dawned on me that it was the year anniversary of that service. I was caught up in the current situation – missing Richard, rejoicing that he is completely healed and in the presence of Jesus, longing to be there too, desiring to be of service to the family’s grief, seeking to love and serve the Lord. I was and I am thankful to be able to ‘pay it forward’ blessing this family even as we were blessed a year ago. I don’t think I could have done this a week or month after Becky’s celebration. I would have wanted to do it, but my deep and flowing artesian grief would’ve made it nearly impossible. I praise God for the measure of healing that frees me to support others that I love in worshipping God for life in the midst of loss.
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:5-6