Tag Archives: mentor

A gift from God I am thankful for


Friends, mentors, and family are gifts from God.
Otis Turner. Melvin Simms (Patsy’s son). Patsy Simms Turner.

Traci Smith, author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home has provided a gift of the November 2018 Gratitude Every Day calendar. I am using it as an opportuity to revisit photos and post them as they speak to gratitude.

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

Let your mentors know

10898187_10205565343713833_2358578664913363875_nMy mentor and friend, the Rev. Dr. Otis Turner, is having a heart procedure next week. Please hold Otis, his wife Patsy, their family, and his care team in your prayers. It is a procedure he has had in the past and is reasonably simple. But it is his heart; and he is my dear friend.I remembered that today.

Otis worked for racial justice in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our country and the world for more years than I can remember. He gave himself in the struggle.

Otis and I met while I served on the staff of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. He was on General Assembly staff.

He quickly became my mentor and we developed a deep friendship that has placed a significant role in my ministry and my life.

Otis recruited me to work on the Facing Racism: In Search of the Beloved Community paper of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After the General Assembly adopted the paper, I went to Louisville to work on its implementation. With Otis, and others.

For two good, important, life-shaping (for me at least) years, we worked together.Otis retired for health reasons shortly after I moved to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, but our friendship continued.

When he moved to Florida, we would talk on the phone every couple of months.And then, as it so often does, time slipped away. The time between calls grew longer and then extended to years.

Yesterday I spotted Patsy on Facebook. We became virtual friends. I asked about calling Otis. She said he would welcome a call.

When I called, it was as though no time had passed. Oh, he spoke more slowly and deliberately, but I likely did so as well.

We laughed. Tears welled in my eyes at times, and probably in his.

It was a sacred moment. A moment in which I learned of his upcoming surgery.

I have been praying since. I invite you to join me.

And I encourage you to contact one person who has been a mentor to you and let that person know!

Do it for the love of Otis.

See you along the Trail.

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

Never, Merdine T., never

Some messages should be delivered in person and not left in a voice mail box or sent by email.

Some times we have no choice but to leave such messages.

Tricia left one for me today.

I think I said farewell“Sorry to have to leave a voice mail. I need to leave. But I just got an email that Merdine T. died last night. And I wanted you to know.”

Some realities cannot be expressed adequately in words. They simply have too much meaning.

My relationship with Merdine T. Morris is such a reality. She was one of the most significant people in my life outside of my family. She helped make me who I am today – at least any part of me that is good and kind and faithful. I take full responsibility for my failings and shortcomings.

While I have been gone from Cleveland for almost 14 years, while the times that Merdine T. and I saw each other on a regular basis occurred long ago, while her health has declined and I knew this moment was coming, while I am a great believer in the Communion of Saints, I have to confess my heart bears a ragged hole this evening. I miss Merdine T. immensely. And I probably always will.

Merdine T. and I were friends for more than 20 years. Friend really does not do our relationship justice, she is my mentor, teacher, challenger, comforter, disturber of my peace, guide, anchor . . . the list goes on. She and her husband Luke played  and will play significant roles in my life. Luke passed away some 12 years ago, not too long after I left Cleveland.

Merdine T. and I have shared some amazing moments . . . conversations . . . experiences . . . times of learning and growth . . . disappointments . . . violations . . . injustices . . . ordinations . . . presbytery meetings (incredible to say, I know) . . . graduations . . . transitions . . . acts of justice . . . moments of witness.

If you want to hear some amazing stories about a child of grace and a faithful follower of Jesus, buy me a Jameson and ask me about Merdine T. some time.

Merdine T.’s health began to fail some years back. As she became increasingly fragile, I began to wonder each time I saw her if that time would be the last time.

And finally it was.

IMG_3763This past December, our mutual friend Nan Dorer celebrated her 90th birthday today with a party at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Tricia and I took Merdine T. to the party.

The day was wonderful. Friends old and young, long-time and new, greeted Merdine T. warmly. Her presence meant the world to Nan. We stayed for the children’s program and carol singing. Merdine T. beamed. When we returned to the Fairmount Health Center, staff members commented on the joy that filled her face. A wonderful day.

In her room, as Tricia and I were leaving, Merdine T. reached up from her chair and hugged me. Tears filled her eyes.  And she said the words. The words she said to me every time we said goodbye over the past five or six years.

“Mark. Never forget me.”

Tonight, through my tears, I reply as I always did.

“Never, Merdine T. Never.”

As I grieve my loss, I give thanks that I had the privilege of sharing life with God’s beloved child, Merdine T. Morris.

See you along the Trail.


Filed under Cleveland Heights, Friends