Last July, I wrote a post entitled When Your Mentors Are Gone. In it I reflected on the fact of aging and the ongoing fact of people who have been important to you dying. In it I wrote about hearing of the deaths of mentors. I wrote in part of it:
The great cloud of witnesses is loaded with witnesses I have known and who have helped me become who I am.It has happened again this week. Two emails from our church offices that one of those mentors has died at age 99 and another is moving to a nursing care facility. I paused again to ponder the movement of time, of aging, of gratitude for the support and care received. I thought again of special moments.
But now they are almost all gone. Few are left, now in their 80s and 90s. None of them to go to for advice but in memory.
Such is the pain and pleasure of aging, the pain of loss, the pleasure of memories, and above all the gratitude of the day in and day out gifts they have left behind in so many lives.
I sat in the break room of the Church-owned nursing home in a far away city that was about to become my hometown. The Bishop filling me in on the church I was meeting with, the history of the place I was sitting in, the opportunities for ministry that lay ahead of me. He was older that day than I am today, yet full of excitement and energy. We talked and he paved the way in my mind for the ministry I didn't even know I was capable of.
There was also the day that I had to go to him and tell him that I was about to enter treatment in Milwaukee for a "problem" with alcohol. He didn't judge, he didn't scold, he didn't ask how a pastor could be an alcoholic. Instead he prayed and kept contact while I was gone with both myself and my wife and for many years after. He wasn't sure that I could return to the same church as pastor after treatment, but he didn't say I couldn't. He let it work itself out and never got in the way as I spent another 11 years as the pastor there.
Over that time I spent many an hour with him later as his pastor and he as a wise soul both listening and giving, sharing and receiving. After 15 years as the pastor we moved to a different town, but that place is still home- and he continued to be an inspiration and a challenge. Never "old and stodgy," always looking for the cutting edge of ministry, I only wish I can be half as interested and interesting 30 years from now.
There are probably thousands of people that he touched. I was blessed to be one of them.
Such is the power of that great could of witnesses.
Life can be a burden- or it can be a joy. It is a burden if you long to be somewhere else and feel trapped. It can become a joy when you discover who it is you are becoming and what God's will is for you in that moment. We learn the joy from wise mentors. We can share it if we are willing to be mentors to others. Death does not come as such a devastation at nearly a century old. When we can live and grow in the memories and share them with others, it can become the seeds of eternal life.
To the Bishop my deepest gratitude today for who you were and for the seeds you have planted in so many!