(November 13, 2022)

“The Love In Loss”

Janet Smith was a dear friend. She was so dear, in fact, she was our kids’s babysitter. Since she had no kids of her own, she appointed our kids to be her kids. On her deathbed, when asked who she would like to preside over her funeral, she replied, “Bill.” When her close friend, Becky Murthum, asked the next question, “What if Bill isn’t available? Who is your second option?”, she said, I’m assuming with a determined look on her face, “There is no second option.”

Thus, Carol and I boarded a direct from Denver to Detroit, drove a rattling, rental Nissan up to the Lansing area, and fulfilled the request of an old friend who passed too quickly. She had been out to see us in Colorado Springs this past summer, spending a week seeing her “kids” who now had their now kids, and delighting me with stories about teaching three-foot-tall creations of God’s handiwork. 

Going back to Mason, Michigan, brought with it a storm of tears and the serenading of laughter. Janet’s passing was the pathway to seeing people we had experienced community with for fifteen wonderful years. Mason First Baptist (now Mason Community Church) was my first experience as a senior pastor. Janet had been on the search committee that called me to be their pastor. Now we were heading back to the place that has held a special place in our hearts, our version of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. 

Loss sometimes leads us back to the forgotten love and appreciation for what we once took for granted. It acts as that Bic Lighter that would cause the end of your thumb to be sore as you flicked on the flame to light the candles on the birthday cake. Janet’s loss created a sore spot in our souls, but it also brought us back to the people and place that we have missed and treasured. 

As I stood behind the pulpit and spoke of the lady who had drawn us back, my emotions schemed to break me down. It wasn’t just Janet who I was thinking about, but also the dear folk who were staring back at me. I had married them, buried some of their family, counseled and taught them, eaten Oliveburgers at the A&W with them, coached their kids and blew the whistle at their Buddy Basketball games. Almost a quarter of my life had been lived with them. 

The loss of our friend brought us back to the people that we will always treasure. As Becky Murthum so appropriately put it, our homecoming was because of her home-going.

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