Deaths always seem to come in clusters. When I started at my first appointment in Oneida, I had several funerals right away, which were the first for the congregation in a while. At my appointment in Franklin Lakes, I've had fewer, thankfully. And in my time since leaving Oneida, to my knowledge, no member of the congregation has died, except family of members, folks less directly connected to the congregation. That is, until this week, when one of my dear former parishioners passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Her funeral will be next week, and the new pastor in Oneida has graciously extended an invitation for me to be involved in some way, which I greatly appreciate.
Nina was one of a handful of folks at St. Paul's who I knew before arriving. She was active in district and conference UMW activities, and I'd met her through some of the UMW women at my home church in Rome. When I was appointed to Oneida, these Rome friends asked Nina to look out for me, and she certainly did, no questions asked, making it clear to everyone that they better be ok with me!
Nina was a character - a joker, a fighter who battled cancer with courage even after it returned again and again, a dedicated church member, stubborn and humble. She was our lay member to annual conference, and I was especially pleased to have her as a stole presenter, along with my mother, at my ordination. And I know she loved being there for me! When I was about to announce my new appointment to New Jersey, Nina was one of a very few people I made sure to tell before the offical news came out.
In some ways, I feel blessed that over a year has passed since I left Oneida without experiencing this kind of loss. I think that's a gift to me, something that makes it easier to leave one place and move to the next. And it's a gift to still be able to be a part of celebrating her life.