My pastor died recently. That sounds so simple and still so unreal when I say it. But it is hard. Very hard.
When I found out I crumbled. I broke into uncontrollable sobs. How could this happen? He was a man who two days earlier had been rollerskating. I remembering texting a friend saying, "Is it true?" and unfortunately the answer was yes.
Let me tell you about Pastor Dan. Yes, he was my pastor...but he was way more. So when people said to me, "I heard your pastor died; I'm sorry," all I could reply was, "He was more than that." They would never be able to understand. I have never, in my life, met someone who has touched me so deeply. He was a spiritual guide, a personal guide. He was a boss. He was hilarious...I mean really hilarious. He challenged me. He was a friend. And he loved Jesus.
Pastor Dan came to our church during a difficult time. He came just as an interim. He led us through that time with love and discernment. I was thrilled when he agreed to be our permanent pastor. I work as secretary at church during the summer months. During this time we worked together, talked together, and prayed together. I sought his guidance, shared joys and sorrows, and came to rely on him.
I took Sunday School classes with him and he is the first pastor who made me thirst for learning more about God's word. Through opportunities of small group Bible study, Sunday School, and other things, I'm learning. He showed me that questions are okay. He pushed me out of my comfort zone. He was able to get me to give a sermon .... me.
He was always thinking of ways to bring people to God. He would challenge us weekly to be disciples. He was never happy with us just coming to church and then not going out and showing God's love to others. That's really what it's all about. He challenged me to reach out to others. I remember emailing him one time, voicing my concern for a friend. His response was, "Why don't you call her?"
His sermons were passionate with bits of humor. He always wanted us to sing and shout in the aisles and I'm kind of sad now that we never did that for him.
I loved his humor. Possibly one of the things I'll miss the most. In one sermon he compared having another child to getting another tomato plant. I don't remember the point, but remember laughing out loud. I did that often. Whether it was putting on a wig and singing before a congregational meeting or singing his little "ditties," during his sermons. I remember telling him one Sunday that he was "very singy that day." Yep. That was him.
He loved flying, boating, skiing, fixing cars and life. He embraced living...never backing down, never slowing down. Always thinking, always doing. He loved people. He made everyone feel special. There are just not enough words or emotions to explain what this man was.
And now we grieve. Today's sermon was about the death of Lazarus. Martha was angry. She rushed Jesus and wanted to talk about it. Mary was quieter. But she was grieving with uncontrollable tears. Pastor Paul showed us that some people grieve like Martha and some like Mary. There is no right way to grieve. I've sobbed. I've cried quietly. I've laughed. I've hugged. I think I'm fine then something will hit me and the tears are there again. Like when I walked into the cooler at camp and found the leftover perogies there from his funeral meal. He introduced my family to those dang things. Or when I see his coffee mug. Little things. But every little thing reminds me of a great man. This journey of grief will take awhile. But I know he is dancing (and singing his ditties) in heaven.
That is the great thing about this horrible time. The promise that we all have in salvation. And that is the Good News we need to shout to the world, just as Pastor Dan would want us to.
I will never forget you, Pastor Dan. I will forever be a better person because of you. Thank you.