Hello again. I thought I’d try to write a little update before too many weeks go by and too many thoughts collect that result in a lengthy tome like the 10/3 entry.
Perhaps the most significant event to report from the last several weeks is the dedication on October 22 of a conversation area at WTS in Al’s memory. The students—past and present—contributed money to buy nice outdoor furniture (think European outdoor café) for the lovely stone courtyard behind the oldest building on Westminster’s campus to create an area where students can gather, talk, continue conversations begun in classes, and deepen their friendships. That kind of connection with people was so much a part of who Al was, and he would be so happy to think that people wanted to honor him by making a place that will enable and foster such connections. What a perfectly fitting idea.
The dedication was during the chapel time, and Pete Enns gave a great message, encouraging us all to invest in people (as Al did). Eowyn and Alden got out of school to come, Becky and Lauren took early lunch breaks from work, and Alasdair and I were on campus for class anyway, so we were all there. It was a blessing. Of course these things are sensitive emotionally, but also wonderful. Grieving is greatly eased by having others who share your grief, and it is a very real comfort to know that others who knew and loved Al miss him as we do.
Other things have made me miss Al a lot recently, some predictable and some out of the blue. I am finally finishing the process of ordering a memorial stone for Al’s grave, and that carries with it a sadness that is expected. I was reading this morning from the little Bible Al carried with him when he traveled here and there around the world, and that made me miss him, too, not surprisingly. A good friend of ours who was a fellow seminary student of Al’s in the late 70’s spoke at the preaching conference at Westminster recently (and did an outstanding job), and it was so good to see him. Sharing memories from way back then was fun and funny—and also wistful. Another seminary friend from a decade or so ago who became one of Al’s long-distance colleagues, spoke at a women’s conference a few weeks ago (and also did a terrific job), and again it was wonderful to see her, and made us both miss Al anew. In my class on the prophetic books we started Isaiah this week. That was Al’s book. He taught Isaiah for years, and even last fall when he was weak and had painful blot clots in his legs, he went in to the Prophets class and taught on Isaiah. Mike Kelly, who teaches that class, and I both knew that when he (Mike) taught that material this year it would be emotionally challenging. We both teared up just a little bit when he started out, but after that it wasn’t too bad, and Mike did a great job, as I knew he would.
But there are other things that push emotional buttons that I don’t necessarily anticipate. Recently the faculty voted unanimously to dispense with the bells that have been ringing at the beginning and end of classes for as long as the classroom building has been standing. No big deal. But as I listened to a faculty member recount with humor and relish that brief part of the faculty meeting, I knew that if Al were alive he would have thoroughly enjoyed the interactions and camaraderie at the meeting and would have come home and told us all about it with smiles and jolly laughter. I couldn’t help shedding a few quiet tears in the back of the classroom.
Much more forceful was a dream I had a week or so ago. You may have had the experience of being away somewhere for long enough—whether on vacation or extended travel, or living somewhere else for a time—that the life/world/routine you’re used to begins to seem like a dream. And then when you return to your normal world the alternate place quickly fades to a dreamlike status. If you’ve experienced it more than once, you know ahead of time that the vacation place that seems so real to you when you’re there is going to fade and seem like a dream. You may even tell yourself that you’ll find a way to keep that from happening, but the fade is inevitable.
Well, Al has been in many of my dreams since he died. Usually he is just part of whatever is going on in the dream, and it seems perfectly natural to have him there, and it is only after I wake up that I realize there was anything odd about the picture. At those times I smile and am thankful to have shared a dream experience with him, even if it’s only in my sleeping mind. But last week I had a dream that was different. This time I was aware in the dream that he had died and that I was only dreaming. He wrapped his arms around me, as he had so often, and we talked about what it was like without him being here. Actually, it was very reminiscent of occasional times during 2006 when he would bring up the subject and we would talk about the future and about what life might be like without him. I assured him that the Lord was going to take very good care of us, which we both knew was true and which has certainly turned out to be, but there was no getting around the fact that we were going to miss him terribly. He would hold me, and we would face and feel that sadness together. My dream last week seemed so real and so like one of those precious times. Just as you know on vacation that you will return to reality, and just as we knew last year that there would be a time ahead when he would be gone, I was aware in the dream, with keen regret, that once I woke up it would have been only a dream and would fade in the face of current life. I said so to him in the dream, and we both agreed that that was going to be very sad. It was. I cried a lot the next day as I missed Al.
But I take comfort in knowing that one day we will be together again and this whole present life will seem like a dream. Not because I want to rush through this life or that I am unable to enjoy its many very wonderful blessings now, but because as good as this life is, life in heaven will be infinitely more wonderful, more vibrant, and more real, and I will be happily content at that point for this good life to have become a faded dream.
Not everything has been sad, though. There have been lots of happy times too.
Eowyn’s choir at school hosted a Coffee House recently at which each of the members was supposed to perform, with others if desired. Eowyn, Kristen (our housemate) and I put on overalls and bandanas and sang a down-homey version of “I’ll Fly Away” best known recently from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou,” complete with harmonica, kazoo, rolling pin, and a wooden spoon on a cheese grater (we couldn’t find a washboard). It was pretty much a hoot.
This time of year there are lots of costume events going on, and we have been making the most of them. I hope to get some pictures up here soon so you can enjoy the craziness too.
I got to do a little drama this week. Every year I do a dramatic recitation of Genesis 1 in Hebrew for Doug Green’s Old Testament History and Theology class, and it is SO MUCH FUN to do! I’m glad he keeps letting me come back.
Alden’s school soccer season has ended, and his club soccer season will wrap up next weekend. In the most recent game two kids left with broken bones!
Eowyn’s play is next week, Nov. 15 and 16. It’s Antigone, a classic Greek tragedy with everybody dying at the end—a real “upper.” She plays Antigone. If anyone in the Glenside area is interested in going, it’s at Abington High School at 7:30 each night, and tickets are $5. You can get them from us (just call) or at the door.
Here is something related to that that blew me away. Every year the professional meetings for The Society of Biblical Literature are held the weekend (actually Thursday – Tuesday) before Thanksgiving, someplace in the US—this year in San Diego. They are important on lots of levels, and we always knew that that weekend had to be blocked out for Al to go to SBL. Over the years there were occasionally family events that conflicted with the SBL meeting, and Al would have to weigh options and make judgment calls about whether he should miss some or all of the meetings for the particular family commitment. Sometimes he went one way and sometimes the other. Well, I found out that Doug Green, Al’s colleague, is going to go to the meetings a day late this year so that he can be here for the first night of Eowyn’s play! What amazing kind of love is that for our family that he would voluntarily put himself in the position of making the hard choice Al would have had to make if he were here so that he can stand in for Eowyn’s father and cheer her on? We are blessed beyond words to have such good friends!
And on we go. It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed at times, especially trying to carve out the time I need to work on reading, translation, paper-writing, etc. for my classes in the midst of life with busy teenagers, taking care of running a household alone (administrative details have never been my strong suit!), figuring out parenting issues alone, and dealing with the hundred and one out-of-the-ordinary things that come up all the time. But I was reminded last week from Matthew 6 that fretting about things doesn’t help at all, and that my heavenly Father knows exactly what I need and will provide it. I’m trying to remind myself of that in the moments when I’m feeling stressed. Of course, birds are busy working to find food all the time, and that is part of the very process by which God feeds them (which is an example Jesus uses in Matthew 6). So remembering that God will take care of me doesn’t change the fact that I still need to get the things done, but it does diffuse the feeling of pressure in the situation, and that is really helpful. Remembering that I have a Father who cares intimately about me and who will take care of me and of my needs (who in fact knows what my needs really are better than I do myself), enables me to let go, and relax, and trust him that he will work out whatever it is I’m stewing about. Matthew 6, when it came up in our women’s Bible study, was a timely reminder.
Well, this has become sort of long after all, so I’ll stop. I hope you are experiencing the tender care of our loving heavenly Father, too.