This post is brought to you by Memory Mondays.

You know those adults who make up your life’s scenery when you’re a kid? Most kids have some sort of parental figures (good or bad, they directly affect our lives by their presence or absence), and if we’re lucky we have a few other adults who take a positive interest in our lives and sort of help bring us up, and then there are other adults that are just sort of around, but you get used to having them there?

When I was eight, my family moved from Honduras to New England so my dad could plant a church. Everybody we knew when we first got here seemed to have something to do with churches, and I kind of lost track of where we knew everybody from, but one couple around my parents’ ages that were “around” from the very beginning of that time were Wally and Linda. Wally and Linda had, ultimately, eight kids, though I don’t think they had that many yet when we met them. Some of their girls were around my age. Sometimes we would play together. I didn’t really know Wally and Linda, but they were always really nice, they always talked to me, and they were kind of comforting people to have in the background. You know. You’re a kid. You kind of take adults for granted, but sometimes it’s nice to know they’re there. I wish, though, that I when I moved back to Massachusetts in my 30’s, I would have grown up enough to take them out of that category. They reached out to me a few times, but they were always my parents’ friends, and for some reason it never occurred to me they could be my friends, or mentors, or something, too.

Wally has cancer.

It’s not like my cancer was. Apart from a legit miracle, this cancer isn’t going anywhere, and he isn’t going to survive it. He just found out his chemo isn’t improving anything, so he opted to quit. Today, the church he is currently serving had a tribute service. They must have invited all of New England. The place was packed, and for over an hour, people shared their memories of this remarkable man. I thought, I could have learned so much from this couple. I also thought, People should do this for every good minister. I know, clergy don’t have a very good reputation anymore, but I come from a family of good ones, and grown up in circles of other good ones. And let me just say that church work? Can be a pretty thankless job.

Wally and Linda had some tough times, even before the cancer. I never knew specifics, but these “tough times” lasted for ages or kept coming back or something. Maybe both. They hung in there, though, and hung in there, and hung in there some more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them not smiling. Still, as someone who has worked for churches on a lesser scale, I can’t imagine they didn’t have times where they wondered why on earth they were in this profession, and if it was doing any good and if anyone cared. I don’t really know how Wally felt, but as I walked into the church, from a parking lot away because the church parking lot was full, I myself got teary and wondered if he ever had any idea that he was important to this many people. And I thought how lovely it was that, this side of Heaven, he could find out.


8 thoughts on “Prehumous

  1. I clicked like above, and thought post click, if like was really the wrong sentiment? This made me feel melancholy and yet wistful at the same time, stirring some of my own memories. My Dad passed in 2005 and as I was doing the eulogy the realization of how many regrets he had when he passed left me feeling I guess kind of the same way this post does. Not that Wally had a lot of regrets, but more the sense that if I could have a do over how might I have intersected with someone now that I am coming from this other perspective. Am I making any sense…

  2. Thank you for your well-thought-out words, Jenn. I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to speak with you, but there were lots of people in lines and I know it was a long service. Thank you so much for coming. I feel badly that Bob and Betsy couldn’t find parking and left. Please thank them for the effort and thoughtfulness.

    • I felt badly I didn’t stay, but I’m becoming aware that, what with extra church meetings in the evenings lately, plus seminary activities, my times with my husband are getting truncated, so I didn’t want him to feel gypped. But I’m definitely glad I could at least be there, and I hoped that maybe this would be one way to give my regards without, say, holding up the line. šŸ™‚ Love to you both.

  3. Jenn, the first thing I had to do when I saw your post was to check the dictionary. Having done that, I had a gut feeling that whatever it was I was about to read, it was momentous. As it turned out, it was not one but three. One, the way we take the elders for granted; two, the way we refuse to grant them parity; three, the tragedy and fortitude of the serene couple. It turns out there could be more. There are so many atrocious humans that inhabit the world. Why is it that the simple and the angelic are made to suffer? Saying that it could be the Almighty’s will is like endorsing a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    My heart goes out to Wally and Linda.

    • Yeah, I made up “prehumous.” At least, I think I did.

      I once knew a Pakistani Christian couple who went through a ton of anguish in their family and, based on a verse in the Bible that says the Lord disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3.12–also quoted in Hebrews), came to the conclusion that, given their circumstances, God must love them a whole lot. I can see how, from the outside atmosphere of faith, that can make God sound like a monster, however. I personally think that you answer the question yourself, at least in part: there are so many atrocious humans that inhabit the world. So the excellent ones suffer. “Are made to”? Maybe. I might touch on that on a Theology Thursday at some point soon.

      Anyway, thank you for your heartfelt comments. My heart goes out to them, too.

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