Bob died this morning. Congestive heart failure is really not a surprise after a lifetime of overwork and cigarettes, but it still hurts to get the news.
In the two years I’ve served my little church, I’ve done only four funerals, and none has been for someone I really knew well. Bob–I knew him very well. This morning I left my lectionary study group and was headed to the hospital to see him. Our Head Deacon spent some time with him last night and arrived at a church meeting quite concerned, tearing up as he described Bob’s condition. So Bob was at the top of my list of things to do today. Once in the car, I checked my cell phone and found four voice mails. I knew before I even listened to them that Bob had died.
The children had a half-day of school, so I called the middle school and left a message for #2 Son to stop at the elementary school on the way home and pick up his sister. When he told her why he was there instead of me, she broke into tears. I guess we all cared about Bob. Later, when I returned from a visit with Bob’s wife and son, the Little Princess wept in my arms and #2 Son joined us in an embrace of compassion.
Then I burned some grilled cheese sandwiches. In times of great emotion, I always want a grilled cheese sandwich, and I always burn it.
After lunch, such as it was, the Little Princess cried some more and told me this was the first time that someone we knew had died and she understood what death really meant. "I believe in God and Jesus," she said, "but how do we know there is really a heaven?" We don’t, I said. We don’t know. But I do believe it.
#2 Son gets that. At 14, he is listening to his friends say there is no God, because there is no evidence of God. "They just don’t understand, Mom. Faith is believing in something you can’t prove."
That’s the work of faith, I told them: believing in what you cannot prove but somehow know anyway.
Bob was an orphan and lived in a home for boys here in Portland back in the 1930’s. He was incorrigible. One after another, potential adoptive families returned him! But finally a mother came into his life, and a church, too. And although he lived around the country, he came back to Portland. He retired from his work as a chef and started cooking monthly suppers at the church. The whole operation runs according to his plan. Last week, quite literally on his deathbed, he rose up to order the groceries for Saturday’s supper. Even though he knew he wouldn’t be there to cook it, he knew it would happen somehow. Really, his heart never failed.