My week started with an every-ten-year visit from the college's accrediting association. We have worked hard over the last 9 months on the self-study to make sure that we found everything that might need improvement on our campus, from increasing graduation rates to equalizing teaching loads. While the validation team was cordial to us, we all know that the immediate future of our institution depends on the findings. We had several instructions for the first part of the week--stay in our offices, be ready to answer questions, and dress up. For months, I had planned to do a dance of joy around noon on Wednesday as I glimpsed the taillights of the van taking the validation team back to the airport, eagerly anticipate being able to go to work Thursday in jeans and a polo shirt.
Instead, suddenly the validation team's importance faded. My husband phoned just as I was ready to walk out the door to work on Wednesday morning with the news that a friend had died. He was one of my husband's running buddies, our pastoral care minister, and the son of our dearly loved, elderly senior minister. Mike just dropped dead while trying to get a little exercise on the treadmill. And no, this was not a case of an old, out-of-shape guy pushing himself. Mike was in pretty good shape and exercised regularly.
When anyone close to you dies, you tend to become philosophical. You are especially philosophical when the newly departed is close to your own age. So I began to wonder how I would spend my last day. Mike didn't have the luxury of choosing how he would end his life; nor will I. He got up Tuesday, went to the office and was apparently more himself than he usually was--a real cut-up. He joked with the staff and threw things (probably candy) at the secretaries. He went home, ate a good dinner, made some hospital calls, ate some more, then went downstairs to exercise. Then he met Jesus.
I'm not sure how I would choose to spend my last day. Probably I would choose to do just what Mike did: go to work, spend time with my family, take a little time for myself. Mike had an ordinary day. From all reports, an exceptionally good ordinary day. Then it turned out to be the best day of his life--he realized his reward.
The rest of the week for the rest of us meant that we dealt with the aftermath. There is a pretty big hole in our lives, but a much bigger hole in the lives of our friends. The funeral service was sad, but funny--just like Mike. I played the piano and a couple of Mike's friends sang. They were great to play for, and I hope Mike would have liked it (I surely did!). Our church pulled together and functioned like the family it is supposed to be. Everyone took extra care of everyone else. The building was full of people hugging, finally remembering to tell each other how much they are loved. It was beautiful.
The weekend church services had been arranged for some time. A guest preacher had been invited, the sermon topic and special music chosen. God, of course, foreknew that our large church family would be in desperate need of hope and comfort, and the guest preacher just felt led--a month ago--to prepare a sermon on heaven. He was marvelous, just what we needed. So after a tough week, this one has started off pretty well.
Here's to ordinary days. And--I love you.