As a minister, it was always my privilege to observe and honor the ordinary sacred moments in peoples’ lives. I got to conduct weddings and baptisms and funerals. I was usually near to hospitals for births and deaths. I got invited to birthday parties and anniversaries, if only as the one to offer the prayer before the meal. I often got called over, maybe just as a witness to God’s presence in all things. Even reflecting on that now, my heart is full of both joyful and painful memories.
With our recent transition, this ministerial duty has taken on a new twist, especially in the last few weeks, as I’ve been sorting ever deeper through the sacred stuff of Frank’s life. Frank is the man who sold us his house. He had a fall a few months back, which led to his hospitalization, and then his moving to a care facility. Home wasn’t a safe place for him anymore, so he sold it and all of its contents to us. He won’t need all the stuff that’s still here. But it’s still his home.
Like us, Frank and his wife Sieke never had kids. His niece went through the house to collect things he asked for, and picked some things for herself, but otherwise left the rest for us to sort. I imagine someone else might just park a dumpster in the driveway and scrap everything indiscriminately. But I thought that would be too disrespectful. One day my house (maybe this house) will be sorted too, and I hope to be afforded a little dignity when it’s my turn. So it’s the least I can offer.
It’s a strange thing to try to honor a man I’ve never met, handling his tools delicately, sorting his clothes carefully, flipping through his books gently. It turns out we have a lot of similar tastes. He had a lot of clothes and shoes and scarves. He was interested in geography, history, and theology. His wife liked pottery, crafting, and wool. They were proud of their Dutch heritage. They were clearly believers in the God I serve, and members of an RCA church in which I am ordained. I may even have in this very house a stained glass chandelier that came out of the Harriston Reformed Church. I feel that in some strange way, I’m getting to know these people.
There are some things of theirs that I plan to keep. And not just practical things like the bench grinder, the turntable, and the large coffee perk. Those are nice. But even better are the personalized license plates I’ll hang in the shop, the various china tea cups Christina will add to her collection, and the simple cross which is woodburned with Jesus’ words from Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always,” which will very likely remain on display always. As those words reminded the previous owners of God’s faithfulness to them, so those same words, those everlasting words, will remind us that we do not walk this road alone, but with our Savior Jesus, who went before us then and goes ahead of us even now. What’s more, we also somehow walk alongside and after Frank and Sieke.