The cards keep coming, and it's already June. They officially marvel that I've made it to 90, and, they try to say something about "the meaning of it all." That is, the meaning of life. Particularly about "touching other lives."
Of course, they don't know what particular lives. They guess about Africa, and Colonial, and Ossipee, and Newton, and little Williamsburg. Often, their reference is to themselves - memories of times where we have connected and they were helped. "You came to see me in the hospital long ago, and I haven't forgotten," or "I walked down the aisle from the group watching the parlor TV, when you said in your sermon, "Talitha Kouni, little girl, I say unto you arise, and I did, and you received me, and I've never forgotten." Or "It was Pentecost Sunday when I was a teen-ager. I don't remember what you said, but the Spirit came upon me, and I've walked with Jesus all these years."
So many, and their memories touch me deeply. I cherish them. I long to be worthy of these so many lives. Many of them I saw at that wonderful May 5th celebration. But others, equally dear, wrote to me from little Kiwawa, remote among the Pokot young people, who remember me as Kuka - grandfather. Others from Center Ossipee, NH - our wonderful summer church there. "I found a letter in my husband's robe, after he died, which you had written to him. He saved it along with a letter from me. You meant so much to him, and to me."
I am awestruck by those messages. Some of those people I still see in the summer. But, no longer the Africans. Except Bishop Paul Ndahigwa of our Rwanda work, and John Londinyo, our early-on Kiwawa pastor. They both were there at the party.
Others also came whom I didn't get to see: Steve Moore of the "Washington Fellowship." And Dr. Jacobson, heroic missionary doctor in Arusha, Tanzania, and his Lynne. What a sweet thing.
It says to one, "you'd better watch out with your life. You'd better keep time and go straight. Run the race like Paul did, looking to Jesus.
Of course now I can't "run" anywhere. I've climbed all the 47 high peaks of New Hampshire, the most rugged part of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Mr. Ketahdin in Maine (twelve more there, and seven in Vermont). But now, because of "respiratory issues" I struggle to climb stairs. I can't easily make hospital or home calls, like the old days.
But, what I can, I do: sit by the fireplace at Covenant Village, and receive old friends, new young friends, and others from along the way - to talk, drink coffee, and pray. And also, do the same at my favorite Starbucks, writing and reading in the back of the store, with a small solo macchiato, waiting for some who've asked to come, and others who just show up. Part of the "Ministry of Presence" God has given me in these late "post-parish" years.
What an honor just to meet my fellow children of God, out there in the world.
I can still stand up and preach each summer at Wonalancet Chapel and Mirror Lake Church in New Hampshire, and on Christmas morning at Colonial Church. Such an honor.
But mostly, it's down to quiet conversation with whomever comes along, and also sitting and listening. Talking with dear grandchildren, and even with my grown, graying children, so precious to Molly and me.
And - a special privilege - to have a website for weekly blogs, and Channel 6 TV programs - all made possible by my friend and fellow traveler and Pilgrim Center colleague, Laury. And, as they come along, helping out, with Molly, in the now much more frequent Pilgrim Center retreats held on 1/2 days, full days, even three days, in Minnesota, and annually in Center Ossipee, New Hampshire.
I am so privileged, and glad for it all. Time, as a friend, with all the dear people. Yay!
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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