Most of my close friends are current or former teaching colleagues. I treasure them deeply, and so did Glenn. To them he was my husband, their friend, sports afficiendo, nice guy, "Manny"(man-nanny) etc. Because of his retirement , not many of them saw him in the role that I know he identified himself with the most, and that was a person selected and committed to be a priest in God's church.
The Episcopal church is an anomaly in this part of the country, which is highly populated by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Our church is derived from the Church of England, which was formed during the English Reformation of the 16th century, when the papacy was challenged and dismissed. Nevertheless, our roots are heavily liturgical, but our message and theology is more protestant, liberal and inclusive. In the United States, it is a very old denomination, found primarily in the East and South.
We believe in the sacrament of ordination; rather than just being a job, thatthrough the laying on of hands during ordination you are joined to a long and unbroken succession. . He used to say that being a priest wasn't just what he did, it was who he was. Glenn wore that every day of his life, in his heart and soul. He wasn't one to wear his collar except on church business. He was fairly modest about his calling, believing that his actions would lead people to ask about his vocation, which is mostly what always happened.. (I just have to share an aside: When we were still in Milwaukee, I went with him once to visit someone in a Catholic hospital after church;he still had on his black shirt and collar. I waited for him in the lobby, and when he came out I planted a big old kiss- right on the lips. The shocked look on the greeters was worth it...he didn't find it funny.)
Today, I took a huge breath and drove to our church in Alexandria, MN. The place where our hearts had found a church home. The place where on the morning of the day that he would die, Glenn celebrated one final Eucharist. I went to enjoy a concert from the summer series they are doing to raise money to repair their beautiful pipe organ. I didn't think I was ready for a service yet, but I wanted to see our dear friends, and I thought it would be a safe first step. It was. I was so happy to see everyone, and to walk in their love. At first when we were outside, I thought that it would be a piece of cake. And then we went into the sanctuary for the concert.
There he was.
Glenn's essence, his aura was everywhere. I could see him on the altar, and where he used to get his big feet stuck in the kneeler. I could see where he used to preach and how he looked when he sang "Surely the presence of the The Lord is in this place..." after communion. I felt his presence so vividly and it hurt. A lot. And I cried.
But just when I thought I couldn't do it, that the pain was too great, I looked at the sanctuary light. The light that represents Jesus; it burns 24/7/365, over the reserved sacrament. I've seen sanctuary lights above the altar all my life and never thought much about them, but today it brought me such peace. I felt the presence of Jesus. I was surrounded by people I have come to truly love, who knew the part of Glenn that was his heart and his soul. They knew his idiosyncracies and his humanness and they loved him anyway. I always got the impression that they truly believed, as we did, that he was called to be with them. And so when I felt a fresh wave of pain, I stared at the light, and at the giant wooden cross. And once again I felt the peace that passes all understanding. May you rest in peace too, my dear Glennee.
I'll keep looking to the light.
" Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.