My wife and I were at a Vail condo this past weekend with my daughter Lauren, her husband, Haden, and their one and a half year old daughter, Bridget.
Being grandparents is all that it’s cracked up to be: a blast. And there are two more grandkids on the way this year! Does that qualify as a small nuclear (family) explosion?
My son-in-law is half Korean; his father was stationed there during the Vietnam war where he flew B-52s and met his Korean wife. On top of being a computer whiz, Haden has an exceedingly dry and entertaining sense of humor. On Sunday morning for breakfast Bridget had rice left over from the night before. And then more rice. While the rest of us had bagels and lox. Talk about an all-American, ethnically confused breakfast. And family.
As Haden left the breakfast table, Bridget in his arms, I bragged, she “Sure has a good appetite.” “Yeah,” Haden replied, looking at his daughter, “you eat enough rice for two Asians.”
With that, we headed our separate ways. Grandma took her grand daughter on her first gondola ride. Lauren and Haden wandered around the village.
I did what I often do on a Sunday morning in Vail: went to the Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran service at the small, but beautifully simple interfaith chapel. Unlike so much of the rest of Vail, the service, and the chapel, were anything but glitzy. If I told you that there were 20 people there, it would be a stretcher. Which is a shame; the pastor, Scott Beebe, crafts sermons that deserve a wider audience. In fact, several years ago, one of his sermons served as a jumping off point for a brief speech I delivered while still in the legislature at a Veteran’s Day observance in Denver’s Civic Center park and which eventually found its way into a guest commentary for the Denver Post. So, despite Scott’s outstanding efforts, a small turn out at church isn’t a surprise. The competition on a sun soaked Sunday morning at a world class ski resort in the heart of the Colorado Rockies is intense.
The sermon was the quintessential illustration of the axiom that “Facts tell, but stories sell”; it didn’t really grab my attention until Scott got to the story that came near the end.
Scott told of talk he’d had with a Denver pastor/friend who was administering the Eucharist to nursing home shut ins. The pastor admitted to Scott that, to a mortifying degree, he was going through the motions; it had been a long and demanding week. And so it went until he got to the last room, the one where Lucile lived, a widow, hard of hearing, nearly blind, having lost virtually everything except life itself. The communion service didn’t go well in Lucile’s room; he spilled grape fruit juice on his slacks. The Eucharist over, the pastor patted Lucile’s shoulder, uttered a prayer, told her that God loved her. And, breathing a sigh of relief under his breath, said goodbye as he headed for the door.
But before he got out of the room, Lucile began praying herself, in a voice full of love and gratitude: “Thank you God for being so good to me. Thank you God for loving me. Thank you God for not forgetting me.”
Stunned, the pastor dropped back into his chair next to Lucile. There was a long silence. “And,” as Scott recounted the pastor’s story, “there was almost as if there was a fragrance in the air. And I didn’t want to leave because this was the most sacred moment of the entire week. This blind woman could see something I couldn’t see. She could hear a music to which I had grown deaf. And I stayed because I knew she had something to teach me.”
Scott closed his message by drawing in a lung full of air. And asking us, “Can you smell what that pastor smelled in Lucile’s room? Can you hear the music he heard in her room? Can you see what she sees?”
“There is, I think, a fragrance right here in this room. Can you smell it?”
Yes, I think I could. And I don’t think I was the only one in room who could. Nor who thought that those were some of the most sacred moments of the week.