A small group of our middle schoolers met at our church this week with their moms. We had two fifth grade boys and one seventh grade boy take part in a Faith Stepping Stone for this age group on the Passover, Communion, and living a forgiven and forgiving lifestyle. It was a great class and a meaningful experience.
On Tuesday night, we closed the evening with prayer. We shared our concerns and in particular, we lifted up our 97-year-old member, Homer. He is near the end of his life, with family surrounding him, singing hymns to this wonderful retired pastor, veteran, and a servant of God. "A pilgrim leading the rest of us on the journey..." as one friend describes him. The pastor says she's just waiting for the phone to ring.
We all prayed for Homer, these three boys from age 9 to 13, and their moms. Within moments of closing the prayer, the phone rang. The air left the room. The pastor excused herself and the rest of us talked somewhat nervously among ourselves. When the pastor returned to the group, one of the boys said, "I know this is really not my business, but, was that about Homer?" No, another member of our church had surgery that afternoon and they were just reporting that things went well.
We then ended the evening with a celebration of Communion. The elements placed on a small table, we stood in a circle and the boys gave the Words of Institution as they remembered, with the adults filling in as needed.
It struck me how Homer would be so pleased to witness this Sacrament. These wonderful boys in that in-between place from boys to teenagers who were praying for him, concerned about him. These boys had never had such an intimate experience of Communion and I felt privileged to be a part of it.
I shared this story the next day with my friend Bob at lunch. Bob happens to be the administrator at Mayflower Community, where Homer lives. Bob is one of those people who tell me who I am in a way that I cannot walk away from. Bob told me that I needed to go and tell Homer the story. Yes, he's nonresponsive, but he just may hear you, and his family will want to know this story. "And Laura, this is not about you." He's right.
I felt led to Homer's room, to visit with his daughter in the hallway to ask if it was okay for me to visit with Homer. I shared the story with her and we both were overcome with tears. I wondered if I would be able to actually get the words out of my mouth when I was with him.
However, as I sat down by his bed, I felt a sense of calm and peace. I laid my hand on his arm and told him the story as if he were smiling that signature smile we will not forget. This man, this servant of God, continued to bless us all by his presence. I prayed with him, for him, and for the boys who lifted him up in prayer and concern.
When I had finished, the daughters were smiling through their tears and said that he was most interested in his ministry living on after him. I don't think that will be a problem.
One of the daughters remarked that I got through the story without choking up. I said, "I don't think it was me doing the talking."
Earlier that morning, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was frustrated and tired. There is so much heartache surrounding my close friends and families these days. But, that afternoon, I was blessed by a dying man, simply by his presence.
Rev. Homer Perry died later that night, March 26, 2009, at the age of 97. My son John offered this prayer when he learned the news, "God please welcome Homer and I hope he travels safely." Homer is home, just where he's been waiting to be.