15 November 2009

Remembering Dale.

I lost a dear friend today in Dale Clemens. About 3:00 this morning, Dale came face to face with the Great Mystery he has spent his life serving and seeking. We knew it was coming - he has been sick for a very long time. But, as Jamie often says, death still always catches us by surprise.

It's funny how much I've missed him today. Because of his ailing body and living in different states, we haven't spoken much in the last several years. Today ticked on like any other Sunday. Except that it wasn't any other Sunday.

The man who was partly responsible for me standing in that pulpit, comfortable wearing the title "Reverend," was gone. My heart felt like a piece of it had been torn out. There was a "Dale Shaped Hole" in my heart today.

That void was compounded by the fact that today was very, very busy. A chock-full kind of day at the church. One of those days that makes me remember that you cannot do this job if you do not absolutely love it to the very core of your being. I needed some time alone. A chance to reflect, to miss him, to prepare my heart for his funeral this week. And it just wasn't happening.

And then I met Renee.

I listened skeptically at first. I'm not a fan of country music and Renee Martin has made her living with "The Greats" like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. On this day of a Dale-Shaped Hole, I did not want to soften my heart to hear her.

She talked about the God-Shaped Hole in our hearts. That's great, I thought, I'm so glad God can fill that. But what about the Dale-Shaped Hole? And the Hole left by my grandparents? And the Hole left in the realization that I have no family to sit with at Dale's funeral (my parents are on vacation, out of the country)? It just wasn't enough for me.

I began to feel the tears burning at my eyes. I held them at bay as she talked. But then she sang. I closed my eyes and allowed the silent tears to roll down my cheek. She sang these words about the man who led her to Christ:

You’ve been Jesus to me
He’s wrapped His arms around me with the love you’ve given me
You’ve been Jesus to me
And I will never be the same
He’s loved me through and through-Through you
You’ve been Jesus to me

God knew that I would need someone to show me
What love that lasts forever’s all about
And so He sent a part of Him to love me
Another gift of life that I could never live without

If I had one more opportunity to speak to Dale, I would tell him exactly what Renee sang. When I was just a kid of 7 or 8 years old, he answered all of my questions - sometimes with the phrase, "That's what it means to have faith," but always as honestly as he could. When I wanted to go into ministry, he was there, cheering me on. When 9/11 hit and questions of sincerity and religion and God's mercy racked my brain, he sat and talked. When my beloved, sweet grandpa walked through the door of death, Dale preached his sermon with a catch in his throat and tears in his eyes. When I was ordained, he was the one person I deeply missed, for his body had already begun to fail his spirit.

For 30 years Dale has prayed for me, with me, and about me.
He has been more than my mentor.
He's been my friend.
He's been another grandfather.

He's been Jesus to me.

Well done, good and faithful servant.
I'll see you on the other side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that I was not in touch enough with you to know how you were struggling Sunday. But, I am so thankful for your Dale because if he had not been on your path, ours would not now be together. thank you for being so willing to share your heart.