I drove 500 miles to attend a funeral.
Yesterday, after watching my daughter and her young boys leave, then getting my car, which wouldn't start, fixed by noon, I left my home to drive over 400 miles before tucking into a motel for the night. This morning, I was able to reach Milwaukee by about 11:00. Negotiating the interstate highways and the Milwaukee traffic went well, considering I probably hadn't driven on those roads since about 1968.
The funeral was for my half sister. We weren't close. It was hard, when I was a child, to feel close to someone so much older than I was. As an adult, I saw here infrequently, since I lived so far away. I saw her 15 years ago at an anniversary party, about 10 years ago, when we visited her condo, 5 years ago at our daughter's wedding, and 2 years ago when she and her husband drove to visit my mother, who was hospitalized.
My half sister had always gone out of her way to give us gifts when we were younger. She and her husband went our of their way to keep in close contact with my mother, who, obviously, wasn't her mother. I actually didn't realize until just 4 months ago, just how old they are, because they were still driving and they kept so busy. My sister actually had a job where she lived until this recent illness.
The funeral was held at the senior living facility where they lived, called Lutheran Manor. This is a place where seniors can live either independently in apartments, or in assisted living areas, or in areas with nursing home type of care. The facility has its own chapel and all the building are connected by skywalks.
The presiding pastor was not the chaplain of the facility, but rather, one of the pastors of the church that my half brother-in-law had attended for about 90 years. A pastoral assistant also helped. This church is in a city neighborhood that some might call "changing." Actually, it changed quite awhile ago, and many old time members moved out while other sorts of people moved in. The church stayed. My sister and brother-in-law stayed. They stayed as very active members even when they got too old to be in their house and they had quite a drive to that church. The pastor quoted my sister as saying that, "___ Lutheran Church will be here until Jesus himself comes again." Some of those church people who attended, including a little choir which sang two songs, were not hesitant to say Amen! as various times during the service.
It was evident from the pastor's sermon, that he knew my sister and her husband well, that he visited often, and that he was a warm, caring pastor. He talked about my sister's God given traits and how they led her to love people and serve others. He said that recently he had asked her what he should pray for and she said, "Pray for the children of the world and for the homeless people." The pastor choked up as he said this. He also said that in his 35 years as a pastor, he had never heard from any other person something my sister said to him about a month ago. She had said that she viewed death as a sort of vacation she would go on. This would be a vacation from the pain she was living with from her last illness.
The pastor concluded by gently suggesting that we could all learn from my sister's faith and example.
Thanks be to God for the life of my sister, her husband and family, and for the church that was such a great part of their life because of Jesus' Love.