Monday, March 05, 2007

Bertha Holmes

First, thank you to all of you for your comments and prayers about Grayer. I appreciate your kind words.

Monday I went to the funeral of Bertha Holmes. Bertha was a member of Rome First UMC, the church I attended from sixth grade until the time I was appointed to St. Paul's. Bertha was a widow of a United Methodist pastor, mother of four sons, and just wonderful person. She was 95 years old. If you had asked anybody at Rome First who they would call a "saint," I'm betting a good 85% of them would quickly say "Bertha Holmes." She didn't see that in herself - she just saw herself as someone trying hard to be faithful. But to others she was a daily living example of how to live as Jesus called us to live. I remember taking Disciple Bible Study with her when I was in high school, and I was amazed that though she knew the Bible so well already, she put her all into this study, and said how much she had learned from it. She was inspiring.

When I was in college, I served in my home church a couple summers as the "ministry intern," and my then pastor (now colleague!) Rev. Bruce Webster let me spend a lot of time with him seeing what it was like to be a pastor. One of the most daunting things for me was visiting people in nursing homes and hospitals. I'm actually extremely shy (though in professional settings you might not be able to tell this) and I was terrified of having to visit people. But I remember that everywhere we went that summer, the people we visited would mention that Bertha had been recently to see them. She just made a commitment to be there with them, and they obviously greatly appreciated her presence.

Years later, when I was looking at seminaries, I told her that I had finally decided on Drew. (I had looked also at Boston and Wesley.) She looked at me and said, "Oh, I prophesied that you would go to Drew." I have to tell you, I'm a skeptic. If almost anyone else had said that to me, I would have thought they were teasing or just wrong. But with Bertha, I knew that Drew was doubtless the place for me to be.

Bertha had a stroke a few years back, and has been in a nursing home out of the area for these last few years. But despite this more recent physical disconnect from Rome First, there were easily 100+ people at her funeral, people of all ages whose lives she had touched. As I said, she was inspiring. A true saint. Would that we could all leave such a legacy of love behind us.
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