Tag Archives: death

Five years

Five years. The vagaries of time make it feel like yesterday and like a lifetime ago, all in the same moment.

Ruling Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died on 12-12-12 in the afternoon. This post was written on that day at a time before I knew of her death. For a number of reasons, it seems worth sharing again and remembering this amazing woman and beloved child of God.

I did something today I have never done before.

I stood in silence for five minutes.

I am not big on pomp and circumstance and formality. A South African friend once observed that I can be a bit “cheeky” to those in authority. For some reason everyone who has heard that assessment has agreed with it. Go figure.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

The tradition in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is to stand when the General Assembly moderator enters the room. Almost every moderator in my memory has encouraged people not to do so. Most of the time most of them meant it. Yet the tradition persists – in honor of the person and even more so in respect of the office. And while it is not my favorite thing, I take part.

Today, without being asked, without being prompted, I chose to stand in silence for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach – moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).

I watched her election from the back of the auditorium in Minneapolis. My son Sean and I leaned against the wall.

A period of questions and answers precedes the voting. Commissioners (the folks with the votes) pose questions and the individuals standing (we’re Presbyterian, we don’t run) respond. The questions deal with theology, issues before the church, and issues in the world.

At one point, a question was posed along the lines of: “What would happen to the church, if you were not elected and one of the other candidates were?”

One by one the candidates offered replies praising the others and noting that the church did not depend on their election. Then Cindy Bolbach stepped to the mike. I do not remember her exact words, but the essence was:

There will be utter chaos.

The Assembly erupted in laughter. Sean turned to me and said, “She just won, didn’t she?”

The Assembly still had to vote. But Cindy did win. And I believe her sparkling humor that bristles with wisdom played a key role.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

Cindy is a woman of incredible faith, deep love, amazing grace, and an incredible wit. She lives daily her commitment to Christ, to the Church, to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) , to all people, and to God’s world. She mixes simplicity and profound sincerity with a capability to navigate complexity and controversy. I am privileged to know her. The Church (in all its manifestations) is blessed by her presence.

For most of this year, Cindy has struggled against cancer. The struggle cut short her ability to attend events but it never dampened her spirits (at least in public). She wore a fedora to the 220th General Assembly (2012) and she wore it well.

This morning came the news that Cindy has entered hospice care. And I stood for five minutes in her honor.

But in the silence it came to me that another way – a better way – to honor Cindy Bolbach – is to give thanks to God for Cindy – to entrust Cindy to God’s merciful care – to pray for her without ceasing – then to get back about the business of ministry. I am pretty sure that is what she would want. So it is what I have done.

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, I will shed more tears. But I will also proclaim “Alleluia.”

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, there will be utter chaos. But in the chaos there will be love and there will be grace and there will be God. And all will be well for Cindy. And all will be well for us. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

See you along the Trail.

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Carolyn Doggett, Presente!

Sad news arrived today in the Forest Hill Church (Presbyterian) newsletter:

The office learned that Carolyn Doggett, former member, Deacon and Elder, died on July 21, 2017. 

The Lake Erie Girl Scout Council employed Carolyn. But her true passion lay in working for racial justice. Carolyn knew herself to be a beloved child of God. As such, she understood that all people are precious to God and all people should be treated accordingly.

Carolyn played a key role in the work to disrupt institutional racism and seek racial equity in the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. She challenged the status quo with a fierce, gentle passion.

A dignified, graceful, persistent, disruptive resistor, Carolyn taught me much and touched my soul.

I give thanks for her life and faith and love and witness. I give thanks that she was my co-worker, colleague, and friend. I pray for all who grieve at her death.

In the Communion of Saints, Carolyn goes with us in the struggle for justice and the march for peace.

Thanks be to God for Carolyn Doggett!

Presente!

See you along the Trail.

P.S. – I wish I had a photo to share. Not for myself, Carolyn is forever present in my mind’s eye and in my heart, but for you who did not know her.

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Filed under Antiracism, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Until we meet again, Ted Hickman

14316837_10209909925482586_6630254089391490747_nOnly 17 short days ago they gathered to bid me farewell. My colleagues and friends from the community of nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations; my friends and colleagues from the Presbytery of New York City.

Ted was there. And after the words were spoken and the time came for people to leave, Ted and I looked at each other across the room.

We smiled. We moved toward one another. And as we had done before, threw open our arms and walked into an embrace, two bears seeking to engulf each other.

He whispered into my ear. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

I whispered back. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

As we disengaged, I said my final words. I refused to say goodbye as I left New York. And so I said to Ted, “Until we meet again.”

Only two short hours ago I received the email from the office of the Presbytery of New York City.

“In Memoriam” read the subject line. I had received enough emails with that subject to know what it meant. Someone had died.

I was prepared to learn of a death. I was not prepared to see Ted’s gracious, smiling face. Nor did I expect to read these words:

It is with deep sadness and grief for his family and this presbytery that I tell you that Theodore (Ted) Hickman, the Moderator of our Presbytery of New York City, died last night in his sleep.

Ted was 51.

My initial shock has given way to deep sadness and grief.

I grieve for his family … for Duryea Presbyterian Church where he served as the Commissioned Ruling Elder (pastor) … for his colleagues at NYU-Langone Medical Center … for the Presbytery of New York City … for all who knew and loved this good man.

I grieve for a song and life ended too soon. Too soon.

I grieve for what might have been.

I grieve for myself.

I grieve, knowing that, in life and in death, Ted, and all of us belong to God.

I grieve, knowing that love never ends, even death can never sever the cords of love that bind us together.

I grieve, believing in the resurrection.

I grieve and proclaim “Alleluia.”

I grieve and remember those final words I said:

Until we meet again,
my friend, my brother.
Until we meet again.

Note: the photo of Ted Hickman is the one that appeared in the message from the Presbytery of New York that announced his death. 

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Remembered smiles

I know this day well; I never forget it; it invariably sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware; and when I pause for a moment to reflect, I remember why things feel so raw. After all these years. And then I smile.

People have been posting on Facebook about remembering this day because of the Challenger disaster. I remember that. 

But I remember this day for an event that took place twelve years before the Challenger. An event that also claimed the lives of educators.

Forty years ago this day,  on January 28, 1974, William Koenig climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. They planned a trip to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where they were to advocate for funds for the Grove City Public School system. At the time of his death, Bill worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was also a private pilot. Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, the two colleagues decided Bill would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and tears. To music made well and badly. To a multitude of remembered smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.

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Unexpected

I read today
of grief and loss
of love and faith
and unexpected
saw your name.

Eyes leaking.
I read on
and the cold, stark words
confirmed that
you were dead.
Into eternity’s void
I stared and hoped
you knew,
and somehow in grace’s mystery
know still,
My admiration for your work
My appreciation for our collaboration
My gratitude for the moments our lives touched
And the ministry we shared.
Thanks be to God.
For Carol Eberhart Johnson
13 July 2015
Manhattan, New York

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The day draws to a close

The day draws to a close,
yet another day
after.

The day draws to a close,
yet another day
without you.

The day draws to a close,
the pain of friends
who grieve at death,
who mourn for the dying,
touches my grief
and sends my spirit flinching
as when a child
pokes an open wound.

The day draws to a close,
the love of friends
who reach out in kindness,
who share their sorrow,
touches my soul
and sends my spirit soaring
as when a bird
rises to the air.

The day draws to a close,
grief and love mingle;
I think of you and ache.
I think of you and smile.

The Shire
Manhattan, New York
28 January 2015

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Smiles remembered after all these years

I know this day well; I never forget it; it invariably sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware; and when I pause for a moment to reflect, I remember why things feel so raw. After all these years. And then I smile.

People have been posting on Facebook about remembering this day because of the Challenger disaster. I remember that. 

But I remember this day for an event that took place twelve years before the Challenger. An event that also claimed the lives of educators.

Forty years ago this day,  on January 28, 1974, William Koenig climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. They planned a trip to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where they were to advocate for funds for the Grove City Public School system. At the time of his death, Bill worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was also a private pilot. Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, the two colleagues decided Bill would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and tears. To music made well and badly. To a multitude of remembered smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Family, Music