Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

I wasn't expecting the phone call I received from Tina this afternoon.  I just saw Freda last week and she seemed to be recovering well from her latest setback.  Same ole' Freda, fun as ever to sit and chat with, sharp as a tack and quick with the wit.  I wonder how many hours I have spent with her these past five years.  I have always saved visiting her for last when out on the rounds, since I knew I'd be settling in for a lengthy pow-wow.  I could count on hearing her say upon my entering her room, "Oh Lord, look what the cat dragged in.  I thought you only worked on Sundays."  Or something like that.  To which I would respond with something like, "Just dropping by to see if you're still around.  I thought you would have surely kicked the bucket by now."  I know, doesn't sound very pastoral, does it?  But, that's only if you don't know Freda and our history together.  She loves to get her jabs in at me, and loves it even more when I jab her back.  We've grown very close over the years and as much joking as we've done together about her many unsuccessful attempts to exit this world (the running joke is that I've conducted Last Rites on her at least four times - actually, it's only been once, and it wasn't exactly Last Rites, but the Lutheran version - Commendation of the Dying - a few years ago when death was all but certain), I am going to miss her immensely when the Lord does finally take her home, which appears to be very soon now.

She is a dear friend and I love her very much.  I've grown very attached to her.  She is family.  I don't want her to go.  And yet, I know how much she wants to go and I am comforted by the fact that both she and I know where she's going.  She has great faith.  Even now, as she nears the end, that faith is on full display for all to see.  She is not the least bit worried about things.  She is ready.

I am ever so thankful for the countless hours I've had the privilege to spend with Miss Freda these past five years, but especially for the time I got to spend with her this evening.  When I walked in the room, she said, "Well, if he's here, things must be pretty bad."  Typical Freda.  Then, as I knelt by her bed to talk with her, she said, with that smirk on her face I've grown to cherish, "Remember that time when you forgot to give me Communion?"  "Even now," I said, "even now you have to bring that up?"  She laughed.  Then, she grabbed my hand and pulled me close and said, "Pastor, I think it's really time this time.  I'm going home."  And then we had the most serious and profound discussion we've ever had together.  During that conversation, I asked her why she was so sure that this time was for real.  "Because I've never seen an angel in my room before and I know he's the one who will be taking me to heaven."  Then, after a lengthy pause, she said, "I know I'm not crazy.  I've seen that angel three times today."  I told her that I didn't think she was crazy at all and that I believed her.  And, I wasn't lying.  I do believe her.  So, we prayed together, I comforted her with the Gospel, and we talked about the joys of heaven at great length.  Yeah, I'd say that of all the visits I've had with Freda - all of which were immensely enjoyable - this was the best one ever.

I don't know how long Freda has left in this vale of tears.  I spent the whole evening with her tonight (well, last night, now), and while it seems like it won't be long, only the Lord knows for sure.  Freda seems convinced that she will be leaving us tomorrow evening (well, this evening, now).  She said that many times and seems pretty sure of it.  It wouldn't surprise me if she was right.  But, who knows?  Again, only the Lord.  But, what I do know is that she is fully prepared to leave this world for the next.  She is in pain, but that pain is being made bearable, and as hard as it will be to say goodbye to my dear friend, I pray that she will soon be whisked away to where there is no more pain and suffering, but only unknowable comfort and peace.

O Lord, have mercy.
O Christ, have mercy.
O Lord, have mercy.
God the Father in heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Be gracious to us.  Spare us, good Lord.
Be gracious to us.  Help us, good Lord.
From all sin, from all evil, from all suffering, good Lord, deliver us.
By Your incarnation, by Your cross and suffering, by Your death and burial, help us, good Lord.
By Your resurrection and ascension, by the coming of Your Holy Spirit, help us, good Lord.
We poor sinners implore You to hear us, good Lord.
That You deliver Your servant Freda from all evil and from eternal death, we implore You to hear us, good Lord.
That You forgive all her sins, we implore You to hear us, good Lord.
That You give her refreshment and everlasting blessing, we implore You to hear us, good Lord.
That You give her joy and gladness in heaven with Your saints, we implore You to hear us, good Lord.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us Your peace.
O Lord, have mercy.
O Christ, have mercy.
O Lord, have mercy.  
(Litany for the Dying)



Carol said...

A beautiful tribute to a wonderful sister in Christ by a very loving pastor.

Dennis Peskey said...

Amen. May Freda go in peace. Amen.