Found an emptiness within…surprise…yet not surprise. This past Advent and Christmas, my favorite “church time” aside from Lent and Holy Week, being part of it was always the more connected time when pastor and people had common ground…to share in worship and song and Holy Communion and lighting individual candles. Not to do that as pastor this time around…I was sad. Okay, probably not being leader plays a part. But more, though. Being almost an observer felt out of place. That’s truth.
Enough of the self-serving.
Then asked myself, after Diane gave me a tremendously powerful story of the “White Envelope,” which I will share in the next day’s blog, which Christmases do I remember? They all have to do with where I worshipped…in small Texas Churches in Robinson, Texas and New Bieleau and Friona [not far from Muleshoe]…in congregations in Illinois, Oregon, Colorado and Ohio.
One, though. One comes to mind and heart…that if I had only one, it would be this. And it doesn’t have to do with birth. Has to do with death.
Let me explain.
A Broadmoor Church Colorado Springs family, Rick and Carol Tilton and their three college-age daughters, were so committed to the church. I remember meeting them my first Sunday, February of 1980; it was their first visit also. Remember calling Carol Monday morning asking for a time to visit. She was delighted. That was 10 a.m. Did the flurry of dotting as many i’s and crossing t’s that I could and saw their name and phone number on my desk mid-afternoon. Had forgotten, completely, that I had called Carol that morning. So, I called again…musing it was the first time. Then. Oops! I recognized Carol’s voice—she had laryngitis. She jumped in, “Mark, is there something wrong with our visit tomorrow night?”
“Oh no, I just messed up, Carol. Completely forgot I had called you this morning…let’s call it early ministry fright.” She laughed. “Oh, a human pastor. How refreshing.”
Rick and Carol were very active.
Then it happened. Mid-fall [a time of year which became a medical condition] Carol was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Aggressive, not waiting. Unsure if Carol would make it until Christmas.
Then. On Thanksgiving weekend, a family of 5 up the canyon…think it was Green Mountain Falls…a family lost everything in their mobile home and were able to stay in a community center.
Carol said nothing to her family, but contacted the family who lost everything, learning they had 3 young girls, wrote down the clothes sizes. Gathered her family. “This Christmas let’s do something different with gifting. Let’s go out shopping for three young girls burned out of their home.” She held the list of the 3 girls…and off the Tilton family went…getting gifts for the entire family. And just before Christmas Eve they delivered their gifts of love.
More than that.
Carol died soon into the new year. I remember crying at her funeral. Yes, because her death was such a loss to all of us, especially to Rick and their daughters. But my tears were deeper…a grief that I hadn’t done more in my life to gift others…to be more grateful…to be more generous. To be more “the spirit of Carol.”
So these days after Christmas—and we’ll leave our Creche standing for 12 days until Epiphany dawns. I will offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Carol…and now more than 30 years later, how her manner of caring motivates and energizes. Yes!