Just Watching – December 2017

The subtitle of Rich and Charlie Resources is clear enough.  Right?  Our goal is to write “An Encouraging Word For All Who Serve” which, more specifically, usually means the threesome of parents, pastor/teacher types and parish leaders.  So there you have it.  National officials, institutional executives and academic professionals of all sorts are valuable and important, but they don’t fall within our primary purview except as they may also be parents, pastors/teachers or parish leaders.

With that as context this edition of JUST WATCHING may seem to be about two items that may seem incidental to our published goal.  One is a person.  The other is a picture.  Without much of a stretch I see those two as conforming to our R and C Resource’s intention because within them the four “Fs” that stir up the best of life on earth are clearly visible. The four?  Faith, Family, Friends and Fun.  May I explain?

The person is Nancy (Olsen) Starck.  I don’t know whether Audrey and I came late into her life or she late into ours but either way we only knew her for a few wonderful years before on November 11, 2017, then 74 years old she went to the home to which she always knew she was heading.  Old?  Not Nancy. “Young,” sez Audrey and me from the perspective of 88.

Nancy came late into Audrey and my world when after her long, full and happy single life she met and married our friend, Richard Starck, a widower with whom she had once worked at AT&T.

I didn’t realize the size of her extended Olsen family and the number of friends she had developed over the years until literally hundreds of both poured into a Lion’s Club Banquet Hall on a recent Saturday afternoon some weeks after her death.  All four “Fs” were evident.  Lots of family.  Lots of friends.  Lots of faith.   And, of course, lots of fun.

The gathering took place even though Nancy was very specific about not wanting a funeral service, or a wake, or grave side ceremony.  She had spelled that out in her Will.  But as Dick explained to those who filled the hall, “…she didn’t say we couldn’t celebrate her life!”  And so it came to pass.

The program of the Saturday event began with five family/friends speakers briefly sharing recollections of her life which illustrated how Nancy lived the four “Fs”.  Capping the five was a touching moment when those present to whom Nancy had given hands-on help via an appropriate word or some act of kindness were asked to raise their hand.   There was a forest of arms.

Together with the pastor of her life-long church in which she had been very active I also had been asked to say a few words about Nancy and offer a prayer.  Few there knew me, why I was invited and even allowed to speak.  It was while the event was taking shape and happening that an answer to those concerns came to me.  But first a flash back.

When Dick and Nancy had been married just a few years previous to the Saturday “celebration” Audrey and I were the only guests invited to their wedding.  While Dick had many family members and friends near at hand in Chicagoland, and, of course, Nancy’s kith and kin were in local abundance, too.  But they (she) wanted their wedding to be focused to what they were doing in an event held in her home congregation.  It was her church and her pastor.  Balancing that was two of Dick’s friends.

Such a powerful and precious event.  The procession was Dick and Nancy coming in together singing a hymn they had chosen.  The music was provided by a young Korean student who at first provided random background music on a small organ before, at a pause in the service, she whipped out a ukulele, quietly sang, “You are my Sunshine” followed by a lively version of the same song.  It fit the moment to the twosome’s obvious surprise and joy.

Thinking about that wedding at her “celebration of life” it occurred to me how perfect and perfectly planned their wedding had been.  If family and friends had been invited (or even knew about it) the moment (her first and only wedding) would have been overwhelmed with a tidal wave of family/friends’ love and good intentions.  After a lifetime of her re came the preparing for this moment she decided it should be as private and personal as she and Dick could make it.

The moment at the Hall when I was to speak.  I kept it short and avoided “topping” the stories of any previous speaker.  I cited a little of Nancy’s humor (her e-mail address was “oldheifer @aol.com”), and then briefly said what I thought she would want me to share.  I told them of the many caring things Nancy had told Audrey and me about her family and her friends.  They were always much on her mind and in her heart.  Even as we celebrated her life that Saturday Dick offered to any in the group who didn’t know about Jesus the copy of the Christian primer that he and Nancy had been distributing whenever they could and wherever they went – now also at her Celebration.

So there you have it.  Elements of all four: family-friends-faith-fun ala Nancy (Olsen) Starck, a leading lady in Audrey’s life and mine.  She blessed whom she touched and she touched so many.  She knew about and blessed everyone she could with God’s Son-shine.

With that let me put at rest the abundance of good feelings about one special 4-F person whom Audrey and I were privileged to meet this side of eternity and turn to the 4-F picture, a 15th century etching, that has also been so much on my mind of late.

I’ve seen the etching many times in the past.  I’d bet you’ve seen it, too.  Likely done by Luther’s good friend, Cranach the Elder, it is a candid snapshot, frozen in time, of a happy and relaxed family, (maybe Luther’s?) who were interacting in a mid-winter moment.  In the etching are four involved adults and five active children.  Laying around are a number of musical instruments and all kinds of toys with what looks like a large, candle-lit and decorated fir-tree branch in the background.

The more I considered the etching the more I was struck by the obviously intergenerational family that it featured, some gifts (maybe from or made by friends?), multiple signs of faith in action with an overarching canopy of plain old everyday fun in décor and activity that permeates the scene.  It looks a lot like many a Christmas-past I have had.  Or was I just seeing what I was looking for?

In any case the picture and person I’ve written about reminds me of how important it is for me to seek and treasure the 4-Fs indicators that are all around me this Christmas season: family, friends, faith and fun.  I (we) need to stop, look and listen, the more the better.  Anything Rich and Bob Bimler, Dick Koehneke and all the others who contribute to R and C Resources can do to support and enhance your life the happier will be the balance of 2017 and however many more years into the future God has planned for us.

Here’s to the Son-shine, your 4-Fs – and mine!