Passing It On in Passing On

Our dear friend, Janet Smith, passed away a few weeks ago. We had a long history with us, going back to when she served on the Search Committee of the First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan, who called me to be their pastor. My “rookie pastorship” went for 15 years, 1984-1999. It was a time of learning, being extended grace and patience, and blossoming into a minister of the gospel.

Janet guided me until I was able to be a guide for her. She and another seasoned saint, Lorraine Demorest, were my first Worship Design Team. We’d meet once a month to plan out the coming Sunday services, a time of thought-provoking dialogue, punctuated with fits of laughter.

Janet, an elementary school teacher, had been mentored by others in the First Baptist family. Marie Lyons, another elementary teacher from the generation of Janet’s parents, had been that calm, wise voice who had been a guiding and shaping influence long before the age of social influencers. Marie was an authentic and real influencer. The last time I saw Marie was at an ice cream shop in Mason, and Janet was there also. The three of us enjoyed some late-night dessert together and talked about the blessings of life. Marie’s celebrated her 3rd heavenly birthday this past week.

More times than not, we are the result, the effect of the ripples on our life. That’s what resonates with me about Janet, who was who she was as result of Marie and others. A number of others, including myself, can see the handprint of Janet upon us. In her passing on she has passed on her impact.

This past summer we were blessed to have her come and stay with us here in Colorado Springs for a week. My adventures in teaching these past few years were blended in with her experiences and we laughed innumerable times about what students had said and done, failed attempts at trying to educate our students on certain subject matters, and the moments that we experienced breakthroughs. We talked about the past and the present as we took day trips to ride the Royal Gorge Train and visit Fossil Beds National Park. She shared conversations as we sipped on coffee at Starbucks and razzed each other as we played cards in the winding down hours of the evening.

And I’m sure there had been similar conversations years before that Janet had shared with Marie Lyons.

Carol and I will be flying back to Michigan for her funeral next month. In Janet’s final hours, I was able to talk with her on the phone as she neared her entrance in Glory. Her chuckle, slurred some by the pain medication, was still distinctly hers. Although I did not know it at the time, she requested that I conduct her final service of remembrance and celebration. As her longtime friend, Becky Murthum told me, “Janet, what if Bill can’t do it? Who is your second option?”, and Janet replied, “There is no second option.”

I’m honored to do it. She’s an important part of my journey. She was our kid’s babysitter when we moved to Mason. She led me as I led her. She loved Jesus, was loved by Him, and was loved by others. In her passing on she has passed on what I hope I can pass on.

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