Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
As old people must--or should—Helen and I keep going through our stuff, trying to get rid of anything we don’t need. It’s really quite satisfying to give stuff we don’t use anymore to the Shalom Center for the homeless, or the Mountain Mission truck, or Opportunity House. I’m having trouble, though, getting rid of t-shirts that I don’t use or need.
I have 53 t-shirts. That does not count the 3 white sleeveless “wife beater” shirts and the 5 white V-neck and 4 white crew-neck t-shirts I wear as undershirts. Those 53 are real t-shirts, with emblems and slogans and pictures and colors and words. And I didn’t buy a single one of them.
Mostly they are gifts from family and friends, although some are from cancer survivor events at which I spoke, or victory shirts from my days as a long-distance runner. How do you get rid of a shirt that is a gift, or a celebration of life, or a hard-won prize?
It is customary anymore at a funeral to display artifacts of the deceased. When George Paterson died, the table at the front of First UMC in Iowa City displayed not only the urn with his ashes but his Bible, his ordination stole, and his trombone, It was a display that summarized his life and brought up so many good memories, for he was famous as a leader of jazz worship services, as well as the chaplain at the University of Iowa Hospital and a professor of pastoral psychology at the university.
When my high school friend, Phyllis Graham Parr, died, the fellowship hall at the UU Church in Bloomington, IL was lined with her sweat-shirts, each one indicating some aspect of her life as a wife and mother, a mathematician, a musician, a citizen.
So I thought for my funeral, a time-line of my t-shirts would be a way of reminding folks who I am. It’s really irrelevant, though, since I am in the process of outliving anyone who might have reason to attend my funeral. So I’ll just tell you about them… they say that I am a cancer survivor, a long-distance runner, a Reds, IU, and Prairie Home Companion fan, a pickle ball player, a lover of puns and bad jokes, a Yooper, an historian, a TV personality, a Methodist, a preacher, an advocate for justice, a constituent of many universities, a speaker at many kinds of conferences, a contributor to good causes, a citizen of many different places, and a grandfather.
Mostly, though, my t-shirts say that my children have been to many colleges, museums, and battle fields, and have weird senses of humor.
Hey, the paperback version of my novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless veterans, who travel around in an old school bus, and are accused of murdering at VA doctor, is, for a yet undetermined length of time, on sale for only 99 cents. Published by Black Opal Books, and available directly from them or from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.