Posted tagged ‘coping’

The One Word

June 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 June 10, 2015

                                               

I wrote recently about a young lady who I had coached basketball for three years in high school passing away at the age of twenty.

Ever since hearing of her death I’ve been haunted…that’s the best word I can come up with…haunted by the absence of a word!

“A word” is not necessarily meant to be a literal term. It could be a few words… or one comment… or one encouragement…or one probing question. Just one thing that might have helped her define her life direction, her purpose, the potential of her vibrant spirit.

There have been other people who I’ve said things to, though unaware of it at the time, who have come back to me later and told me the effect of my words. I’ve written things that touched people in profound ways that I had no clue about.

And so it haunts me to know that this young woman could not latch on to something that I taught her, or I could not find that one word to guide her, years later, through rough waters.

Knowing the ache in my heart, I can’t imagine the aching fatigue in the lives of her family members.

One word! I think back over my life and the “one words” that have helped me get on track. My Uncle George taking me into the bedroom of my grandparents’ house in Oil Springs, Kentucky and giving me his “one word” after I came home from my first quarter of college with a GPA of “.533!” That’s right…the decimal point is to the left of the first number greater than “0”!

I remember Jerry Heslinga, our associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio giving me his “one word” that helped me stay the course in seminary.

I’m thankful for the “one word” that Gene Gilbert has for me on Sunday mornings when he lays a hand on my shoulder before worship and says a prayer for me.

And the “one word” that Rev. Chuck Landon imparted to me as I was floundering in the pool of pastoring. His “one word” was like a lifeline that kept me afloat.

I think of the “one word” of my coaching mentor, Don Fackler. Every time I hear, or say, “discombobulated” …which, believe it or not, is quite often, I see his bespectacled face.

And I think of my closest friend in ministry, Tom Bayes, and the defining conversations we would have. Sometimes I would be in the depths of despair and Tom would lift my spirits, and at other times when I had whacky thoughts he would ask a question to help me right the ship.

“One word” people have been instrumental in my life.

That knowledge makes it that much more difficult for me to know that I didn’t have that “one word” for this lady. In times like these I’m not sure there is a silver lining. Perhaps it will cause me to be more mindful of what I say and don’t say. Perhaps I’ll treasure the relationships I have even more.

The ache in my spirit has not lessened since last Friday. Perhaps that’s a good thing!

Heartache, Helpless, and Blessed

June 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2015

                                

I’ve recently written quite a bit about loss…losing people close to me who have gone on to glory. Believe me! I don’t want to write about the process of grieving for the rest of my life, but I had two experiences yesterday that have profoundly affected me.

It began with “the missing!” A dear man and his wife, 94 and 91 in age, were missing from their usual spots in worship yesterday morning. Rex helps take the offering each Sunday morning and always squeezes my finger when I put my offering envelope in the plate. He looks at me and says “I’m praying for you”, and then he gives me a wink. It’s an important moment of the morning for me…but he wasn’t there.

He’s been battling a form of cancer, running a race against old age…and the age is catching up to him. He is a dear committed man of God and serving husband to his wife, Ann.

I  called him Sunday afternoon and asked if I could bring our group of young men by to pray with him and his wife, Ann, that evening.

“Well…that would be great, Pastor Bill! Yes…I think that would be all right!”

So we went, six of us, spent time with them, heard about his “miracle malts” that his granddaughter was bringing to him that seemed to make him feel better, and then we stood with them in a circle and prayed.

Each one of us felt a bit of heartache knowing that this couple were in the midst of daily struggles to just keep going. The weariness of their bodies was now dictating what could be done and what had to be surrendered. Things that we took for granted were now only maybes for the two of them.

But we were also blessed by simply being with them, holding hands with them and praying, listening to their stories told with wit and humor. They were so thankful that we had come, but we were even more thankful that we had been there.

After we prayed and hugged on them for a while we got in our vehicles and headed down the street to the ice cream place, BJ’s Velvet Freeze, and we all ordered malts!

Right before I had gone to be blessed by this pair of ninety somethings I became aware of another kind of heartache. I young lady I had coached for three years in basketball died. Twenty years old, full of potential and primed for life…suddenly gone. I was numbed by the news. On the wall behind me in my study is a team picture from her freshman year where she is standing just behind my right shoulder, in the midst of her teammates, looking happy and almost giggly. That was one of the sweetest, most fun groups of girls I’ve ever coached. They finished 13-5 and beat an undefeated Doherty team in the last game of the regular season…a group of Doherty girls that had not lost since they started playing together in 6th grade.

And this young lady was a vital part of the team, but more than that, she was just a delight to coach that year.

And now her light had faded out!

That same sense of heartache that I experienced as I sat with Rex and Ann I also experienced as I processed the news of the death of this young woman, but this time it was tagged together with helplessness. I wished I could have said something to her to change the course of her ship, to let the wind be in her sails again. I wish I could go back to her freshman year and be blessed once again by the giggling and the solidity of those relationships amongst teammates. I wish I could rewind and know that I could say one thing that I hadn’t said before that would result in June 5, 2015 being different…being a day of celebration and fulfilled promise instead of grief and deep, deep sorrow!

A strange day of lives that have been long, purposeful, and fulfilling…and a life that had barely started…and I can’t stop thinking about it!