Saturday, August 1, 2009

Not Goodbye, But Welcome Home, Earl

It's been an unusual week in an unusual summer.

This summer in Chicago is one of the coolest I can remember. I don't recall one day when the temperature reached 90 or higher here (it managed 88 early in June).

I have been reminded in many ways of things to which I should focus. Because it's slow at work, I have even more time to ponder. I haven't slept all that well in weeks, though I'm not suffering aches or pains to any great extent. There's just a lot to have to consider, and no clear way to move in many ways. This is not a feeling of a lack of fulfillment; but more a feeling that I haven't quite expressed adequately how thankful I am for what I have and the people in my life.

And that was before I found out Friday afternoon that Earl died...which brings me to the Sign for Our Times:


Earl was a virtual "jack of all trades" at Cornerstone. I've known him nearly as long as I've known Mike. He sang in the old choir, and moved to the modern praise teams (even though I sense he didn't like some of the contemporary songs). He was a lay leader (the Methodist equivalent of an elder) and wore any number of hats; trying to list them all would be a disservice to him as I'm sure I would miss something. Earl was a tax accountant in his 'day job'. That meant putting in long hours from January through April - yet he would still manage to do any number of things at the church, including helping maintain the schedule of supporting ministers (musicians, ushers, and so forth). His wife directs the Sunday School program, and his daughter is part of the music ministry, following in her dad's footsteps.

I knew Earl had developed diabetes and had some health issues, but he seemed to take it in stride.

There's probably a host of things I don't know - at least not yet. But Earl found his "Dead End" sign last Friday, and it's my sincere belief that the next sign he sees might look something like the one I've included above. Life is not intended to end; but it is changed forever.

I know Earl is not Catholic, but I don't think he or anyone else will mind if I offer a traditional acclamation:
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he, through the love and mercy of God, rest in peace.

And for the rest of us:

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall:

Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near,
And the day is past and gone,
At the river I stand,
Guide my feet, hold my hand:

Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

--Precious Lord, Take My Hand (1932)
Thomas A. Dorsey
(Note: This is part of the standard repertoire I sing at many Catholic funerals.)

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