CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter
Helen and I have been driving up to Indianapolis the last couple of weeks to see Joan and Tom in hospital. It’s about fifty miles. To people in their years of winter, in the middle of the most extreme heat of summer, on a road under construction to make it into an interstate, it seems like a hundred. Or a thousand. Miles lose their meaning after a while.
Tom was my college roommate. We were put in a very small room together sixty years ago come September, just because neither of us smoked. We had little in common, but we have remained fast friends throughout that time. I have officiated at the weddings for his children. He suffered a severe stroke several months ago, and has recently had several heart attacks.
Joan is the first of my “children in the ministry.” There were very few women ministers in the Methodist Church when I was her campus minister at IN State U. Indeed, women had been ordainable for only ten years at that time, but she was beginning to feel the call to ordained ministry, and I saw her abilities and encouraged her to go to seminary. Along the way, she decided she fit better in The Episcopal Church than with the Methodists, but, as with Tom, we have been fast friends all these years. She’s officially retired but serves small parishes that cannot afford a full-time priest, so we encouraged her to come to Bedford, where she would be close, only thirty miles south of us. After only ten weeks in Bedford, she had a brain aneurism. She went to a rehab center this weekend, so today we’ll see her there rather than in hospital.
Fairly early in my ministry, I saw a pattern to the hospital calls and funerals that I did. The first couple of years, I called on and buried church members. After that, I was burying friends.
I don’t have church members anymore, members who become friends, but I have a lot of old friends in general, although their ranks are growing thinner on a regular basis. Whenever I go to a hospital or a cemetery now, it’s for a friend, often a long-time friend.
That’s the nature of the years of winter. We care for and then bury our friends. It gets lonely at times. I feel the absence in my life of George and GL and Bettie and Raydean and Bill and Mike and Dianne and Darrel and Don and…
We can either feel sorry for ourselves, that those friends are gone, or we can appreciate how they gifted us with their friendship for so long.
It’s also a good idea to make some younger friends.
I tweet as yooper1721.
An idea for making younger friends: give them copies of Katie Kennedy’s great YA novel, Learning to Swear in America.