Monday, March 12, 2012

A place for all

Listen to post:
When was the last time ...

That phrase has been echoing in my head awhile, first about my daughters:
– When was the last time I gave them a bath?
– When was the last time I rocked them to sleep?
– The last time we held hands crossing the street?
– Dressed them, helped them write a report or fed them?

Those things slip away almost unnoticed, without announcement and, sometimes, with relief in the moments of heavy parenting.

Today, however, I am asking myself when was the last time I saw or spoke to Fred or Virgil, two wonderful men from my Quaker congregation who died on the same night, last Friday. Virgil has struggled for awhile, was older and, his death was not as unexpected. For those of us not immediate family, Fred's passing was shocking. It seemed to us to have happened quickly. He was absent from monthly meeting for business in January and never returned. Before this, Fred was never sick.

Virgil's mobility was limited and, for most of my 13 years at Cincinnati Friends Meeting, he needed assistance walking. His diligent wife, Ruby, made sure he got to meeting as often as they could from Wilmington. Virgil was always dressed in a suit and tie -- no matter what. I smile when I think about the walking tour of Spring Grove Cemetery [particularly the Quaker portion we own] I helped arrange a couple of years ago and how Ruby told Virgil she was taking him out for lunch, then drove the hour south, accompanied by Virgil's sister. Ruby was determined to make arrangements for inclusion in the lot by her in-laws. When that meeting was happening, I had a flash of the time they would need the space and felt some sense of peace in helping to facilitate that. Saturday I had some follow-up calls to make to Spring Grove, but, again, I felt peaceful; that I could do something that honored Virgil's life.

The joke in my meeting had been that it took my desire to be on the burial committee to finally seek membership. The three years I worked at Batesville Casket company in product and corporate marketing taught me the value of even the smallest acts in a time of grief. I grew to respect the work funeral directors perform, knowing I was not cut out for that level of involvement.

The Comfort-of-Friends group that has been meeting monthly has also offered an interesting look at how we view death. We had to name our worst- and best-case scenarios for dying and I said I knew it would be between me and God in the end and I was fine with that. Another friend suggested my perspective was probably not widely shared. I am certain my funeral-industry background has shaped it; well, that and my growing relationship with Spirit.

Worship was hard yesterday and, funny thing, we sang better than we ever have. Guess we wanted to be loud enough for Virgil's and Fred's ears. My heavy heart gave way to gratitude during the silence as I understood both of these men were responsible for the sacred space we were sharing. Virgil had been a trustee when the meetinghouse was constructed in the 1960s and Fred's long tenure as treasurer and a trustee, combined with his attention to detail, kept the building and grounds comfortable, tidy and beautiful.

Without them, we would not be the same congregation. Their legacy is loving and permanent and calls the rest of us deeper.

• What things have slipped away from my life that I did not notice at the time?
• How can I excess gratitude for having experienced them?
• Who am I missing from my life whether they are no longer living, living away or estranged?
• What prayer is on my heart for that loss?
• What legacy have I been creating?

such a chore to
gather all of the little hands,
link arms and safely cross the street

now, I can't remember the time
we just, well, stopped

of course, I still look out
for their safety, but it's
they have grown

what about friends my heart remembers?
loved ones waiting for me elsewhere?
new losses or old ones?

there is a place for all in my heart,
which teaches me how
very big God's must be


  1. Thank you Cathy, for such a grace-filled sharing. I was also saddened by this news and held both Virgil and Fred in the Light and in my heart from Tuscon AZ where I was attending a Wisdom School. What has touched my heart at this time is how I feel *gifted* to be a part of Cincinnati Friends Meetinghouse... a community that flows with Love and Light. I will continue to hold both Ruby and Mary Ellen in my prayers and heart, as we are all doing, at this time and while they move forward <3 In the Light, Sharon

  2. We miss you, Sharon, but have felt your presence ... you know a piece of everyone who's ever worshipped in that meeting room remains. Yeah, the hardships help us see the gifts we have been given ... hope to see you soon! Thank you for commenting.