Up by 5:30 and hit the road by 6:30. A gray and rainy trip for about half of it, out to Concordia. Arrived before ten. No tears until we got there and saw the girls and Melanie. That was very hard. And Chris. It was truly uncanny to see Chris's son - for it was like stepping back into time. That's EXACTLY how Chris looked back when I was his vicar in Garfield.
So many thoughts flooded my mind during the service, at which Pr. Hagan preached a stirring and immensely comforting homily. Eileen's never failing Christmas letter, catching us up on the news. Seeing Eileen and her mom, Mrs. Captain, walking together - both Ladies with a capital L. I don't think I ever saw either one with a single strand of hair misbehaving itself. Sitting in the lovely St. Paul's, my mind went back to the even lovelier Holy Trinity in Garfield.
The loud Slovak singing. Chanting the confession of sins! Shoot, chanting darned near everything. Pastor kneeling before the altar and intoning the Our Father. Old Joe Velibir letting loose on the organ during the offering - always preaching a second sermon, cleverly picking up on themes from the homily, uniting them with hymns, and drawing them out. Or our dear Buschovsky sisters and their love of music. Rosemarie Strba. Mrs. Priester and her unbelievably tasty pecan tassies. The wonderful Sabanoshes, Barbarinis, Glovers, Kmetzs, oh, my goodness. The list goes on and on.
It all came flooding back as we sang "Jerusalem the Golden." I remember Raymond telling me with tears in his eyes how much he loved that piece, and I do believe we sang it nearly every funeral. Garfield seemed a world a way, and yet it was so close. And I was left wondering if the Ritoch children still dip oplatki in honey on Christmas Eve, and if they sing Cas Radosti with gusto? Ah, well. Enough thinking back on the past for the day. Today Pr. Hagan invited us to fix our attention instead on the coming Day of Resurrection, when death will finally be over and done with. For Eileen. For David. For Judy. For all God's children!
After the service, it was a joy to visit with folks. Met some distant relatives of the Blases, and they asked if I knew Vicki Langendorf (she's from Concordia) - I assured them that I run into her at the Y! Talked to a dear lady originally from Troy, Illinois. Got a wonderful visit with Pr. Walt Snyder, a few words in Pr. Tim Millie and Pr. Joel Kurz (I was reading his Von Schenk book just yesterday). Also got to see Pr. Peter Lang. I'm sure I'm forgetting others. We left about 12:30, refueled and headed home. Think we got here about 3:30 or so. Dark and dreary, bare tree limbs, cold and wet - yet we were warmed in our spirits from the unspeakable comfort of God's Word, and we left with peace. A peace that the world will never understand, but which we know is the secret joy of Christ's sisters and bothers.