The Unexpected Ministry in Misunderstanding (Time to Eat.)

I never fessed up because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take away the meaning they’d assigned.

What I’d said was, “Five years ago today was the happiest day of my life. Today is the second happiest day of my life, because I can see how very much (emotional throat glitch) he was loved.”

From what I’ve been told, miss-hearings varied from, “how very much Jesus loved him,” to how very much Jesus loves us.”

Our United Methodist Church Pastor was one of the misunderstandees. His own throat-closing confession to an entire sanctuary of mostly unknown-to-him funeral attendees that the decision not to marry Jeff and me was the greatest regret of his ministry career, sealed my lips.

Shortly thereafter, the minister invited everyone to fellowship after the conclusion of the celebration of life for Jeffrey Korte. But, before the dismissing blessing, he also asked if there was anyone who hadn’t had a chance to speak but would like to now.

There was such a complete and awkward silence that if I hadn’t known there were people behind me, I wouldn’t have suspected anyone was there.

Then, it happened.

In a 100% Jeff moment, his picture leapt off the communion rail and tumbled over backwards. The people murmured, the tension broke, and Pastor David took it as a sign.

Paraphrasing, again, it was something that included ‘going’ and ‘eating’  like, “I think Jeff’s sayin’ it’s time to eat,” or “I guess Jeff’s ready to go eat.”

There was laughter and a blessing and then it was over. The funeral had officially ended.

I was advised to stay where I was for a few moments, because there were likely people who would not be joining us at the Masonic Hall who may want to have a word before they left.

So, I stood there, and said thank you and goodbye to some; hello and thank you to others. But, the only ones I remember were the four-in-a-row.

“It gives me great joy that you believe in our Lord and Savior.”

“Jesus was with you up there today and he will continue to be with you.”

“What a testimony to your faith! Jesus loves us -Hallelujah and Amen.”

“Your faith in Christ surpasses mine.”

Then, the witness.

Making our way to cross the church lot, the witness, my mother, spoke.

“You’re not going to become a minister, are you?”

Quote for the Week:

ketchup was his friend

So little of the sharing has stayed with me.

Specific stories, short strings of words. Things I heard from behind me, close and far; one at my knee.

“He was my Uncle and I loved him.”

“The closest thing to a brother I will ever have.”

A short story told by a woman Jeff trained as a delivery driver, driving toward Detroit. “One thing has always stayed with me,” she shared. “I was nervous and needed to get over a lane and couldn’t. Jeff was calm and patient. He told me to use my signal. Then, he gave me this advice.”

“Always signal your intentions,” Jeff said. “On the road and in life…’ ”

I’m sure there were more, but lastly, a drily humorous heartfelt summation both true and appreciated by all. “Ketchup was his friend.”

In the few moments’ gap, while volunteer speakers I was still dwelling on “dwelling places” when it happened. So fast I don’t know that anyone else caught it or could have caught it. An ever so slight chin bob, a direct look. Within the same second, I mirrored. That is how it came to be that I would, in fact, be reading my eulogistic … tribute (I guess).

I slid from the pew, stepped up with the help of our minister’s hand. He spoke softly, slightly offering the microphone.  “Do you want to stand here?” he asked, then immediately continued, “… or…”.  

The following “… would you …” was accompanied by the float of an upturned palm. It was the sort of go-ahead gesture offered at a held open door, only it was offering me something more. Significantly, the pulpit. Pastor Dave must have had quite the confidence that I would command myself. So, must have I, only I don’t believe mine came from me.

I’m not at all a public speaker. I say as little as possible whenever possible. So, I wasn’t considerately thinking, showing confidence, displaying emotional control or anything that could be ascribed to … anything.

I didn’t stop to consider. I don’t recall even the barest hesitation. I just continued on to where I would be.  

I liken it to arriving at home, shifting the car into ‘park’ and not recalling if you actually stopped to pay the necessary exit toll. You must have, though, because there you are in the driveway. No flashing lights to be found.

Since then, I’ve self-rationalized. Only because it seemed everyone’s interpretation of the step-up was getting out of hand.

I’ve believed for years that I made a choice based on the perceived comfort of the podium; separating myself from the situation, hiding my girth and assuring I had something to hold onto if I couldn’t remember not to lock my knees.

That belief was shattered, last week.

Quote for the Week:

The Funeral Service and Stuff I Found

From the New Testament, Jeff’s father chose selected verses from John 14.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”

“Believe in God, believe also in me.”

“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”

Dwelling places; the phrase slammed me. For some reason; a jolt. It’s one I’ve never understood. A point of confusion really: how many Heavens are there? I heard other familiar bible bits drift in from a long way off. In between each, echoed “dwelling places.”  

My recollection of the dedicated meditation time was that I did not. Instead, irrationally irked, I internally re-played Roger’s specific “dwelling places” passage request, and wished the meditative time would end.

As a mark to the end, the Ministries announced that we would be moving into remembrances and microphones would be available if anyone chose to share their special memories of Jeff. I know they both clergy spoke, in turn. I cannot tell you what either said.

I can tell you that when pulled my own paragraphs from Jeff’s ‘funeral file’ last night, I was shocked to see I possess some semi-detailed notes. This isn’t the first time I’ve culled papers from the chest. It’s a bit unnerving not to remember ever having seen them before just because of the volume.

There are five pages. Three pages and one extra line of pink college rule, which, at first glance, I believed were in my mother’s handwriting. I compared it to the one-page neon yellow printer stock on which she wrote her thoughts. I can’t definitively say one way or the other. The brilliant paper Mom used however, no doubt was taken from our Michigan Hot Sauce Club stash for monthly newsletters and mail adverts.

There’s a list of the same color that seems to have be compiled by Jeff’s sister. I’m unsure if it is a role-call, an invite list or rows of still-to-be-notified. On the other side, are notes in my handwriting. Names, phone numbers, time of day or night, some doodle work, plus the note ‘figure out the store.’ That last one wasn’t in my pen.

Quote for the Week:

Pink College Rule Pages (1-4), Group Eulogy Contributions

Only Imperative

This evening is sadly more unscripted than usual.

I meant to move forward, but there’s another story to tell tonight.

There’s no reason to relive that grief, when other’s are so…

… fresh, isn’t really the word I want to use, but it gets the point across, and tonight, I’m tired of searching for perfection.

There’s one thing I’ve learned about this business of living and dying.

Even if you know, it’s still a surprise.

There’s no way to prepare, but we try to do it, anyway.

We tell ourselves “If this happens, I’ll do that.”

“When that happens, I’ll do this.”

“I’ll be….”

Strong. Sad. Brave. Devastated. Lost.

Reasonable. Relieved. Reassured.

Alone or in groups: family, friends, acquaintances.

You will be: all of them, at once, in a moment, breath by breath.

Whether you’ve been through this before or not, the emotional war is never won.

Because, there’s nothing to win in the face of loss.

There’s giving what you can and taking what you need. Relying on each other.

And my only imperative:

May Your Happiest Memories Stay with You Through This Time

and Forever into the Future.

I had the strangest reaction today. I thought, “I should call Mom.” And, I realized it’s been 18 years since I broke down in CVS trying to find the best last Father’s Day Card. Even if there was a direct line to heaven, there’d never be a data plan big enough to cover it.

laps

I’ve come to respect my constant gentle oceanic laps of memory.

I’ve come to accept the ebb and flow of universal reminders; receiving laps sent to calm the fearfulness that I will somehow simply forget.

I’ve come to appreciate the awkward rhythms, just a tad off perfect timing.

I’ve come to expect the swell and crash when seasons change; when calendar markings recall.

I’ve come to regard myself part of the shoreline, evolving, as it does.

I’ve come to weather lapse as nothing more than uncontrollable retreat and resurgence, wearing away lines I’ve drawn and re-drawn until the shape of my existence has changed so unsuddenly, I am startled to find myself where I am.

Always missing the ocean.

Quote for the Week: 2020 05 19 The difference between gentle laps of memories and jakorte