A Day to Remember


by John C. Westervelt


        At dawn on Thursday November 19, 2009, I raised the shade on my east window. The cool fall days of recent weeks had dropped a deep layer of leaves across the patio and rose garden. A splash of red rested on top of the Knock Out roses. I soaked up this pleasure, knowing that this day included a four o’clock memorial service for the husband of my friend Susan, who is the assistant director of Asbury’s weekday preschool.

        As a widower looking for a place to serve after I retired fifteen years ago, I began volunteering in Asbury’s weekday preschool. Since that time, I have exchanged greetings each morning with Susan.

        Debbie, a longtime Asbury preschool teacher, moved to Dallas a few years ago. She was to arrive on a flight from Dallas this morning to be here for Susan. Over many years, Debbie had shared a good word, thoughtful remembrances, and an infectious smile with me.

        My morning volunteer job where I help Jan and Sue with three-year-olds was almost complete when Debbie arrived at the classroom door. She had come straight from the airport to share a hug with me. We chatted as we walked down the hall to the preschool office. Before I headed home for lunch, I helped Joanne, the preschool director, load three Care Bear baskets in Debbie’s car for a stop at Susan’s house. The bears would comfort Susan’s three grandchildren as they attended a memorial service for their grandfather.

        Arriving early for the memorial service, I could see from the back of Asbury’s chapel numerous rows filled with preschool teachers. I selected a seat on the outside aisle on the right side beside Laurie, who teaches in the classroom next to mine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Barbara, a thirty-five-year veteran of Asbury preschool, sat one seat in on the row in front of me. Barbara’s son and my daughter were friends at Memorial High school, where they participated in speech contests together.

        A few moments later Jan sat beside me on the end of the pew. I have worked with Jan and Sue in the three-year-old class on Tuesday and Thursday for ten years. I watched Jan’s four children progress through school and leave for college. Each week I learned about their progress and aspirations. The preschool teachers gather in a circle to pray before class begins. Jan leads in prayer on Tuesdays. She seems so close to God as she talks with Him about the needs of the teachers and the children.

        With Jan sitting next to me, I thought, “I have been in a room with Jan and the children all these years, but I have seldom sat beside her.” As I listened to Hart Morris sing “On Eagle’s Wings,” and Bill Mason sing “In This Very Room,” my emotions were warmed.

In front of me, Barbara wiped her tears. Jan gently placed her hand on my right arm. I softly touched her hand with my left hand for just a moment before returning it to my lap. Jan’s hand remained on my arm. I sensed that I was feeling a caring that stemmed from ten years of trust.

When preparing for the memorial service, Susan had said that the preschool teachers were part of her family and that she wanted them at the meal following the memorial service. At the dinner, I found a seat next to Debbie, where I caught up on news about her children, sister, and parents.

Soon it was six o’clock and Debbie said, “I must head to the airport for my flight home.” I walked Debbie to the Asbury parking lot to see her safely to her car. The hug at noon was that of a dear friend not seen in many months. The hug in the parking lot was another goodbye.

Driving home as dusk waned, I wondered why I felt such a peace following a memorial service for a sad loss. I decided that God had used Debbie and Jan to share Love, Joy, Peace, and Gentleness with me on this day.


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