It happened again last night. I woke up at 2, came downstairs, poured myself a little something to drink, and sat in the dark and thought about Dolly. It is my Presbyterian and very solitary form of the Jewish practice of sitting Shiva, a seven-day period to mourn the dead.
Last night I thought about all the Christmas Eve services we had together, all the Easters, all the new elder retreats, the thousands of staff meetings. I thought about how she often looked after me like a fiercely loyal younger sister — making sure staff members didn’t fill my office with black balloons when I turned 60 (she knew I would not be pleased!!), defending me when I had to make very difficult decisions about budget and staff cuts, and a million things I never found out about. She always had my back, and she knew I had hers as well.
She always anticipated my needs and my weaknesses. For example, if the staff was having a Christmas costume party, she knew I wouldn’t bring one and would have something ready for me. A little Santa hat or something. I remember once when my attitude needed an adjustment, she said to me with great truth and authority: “We can’t have you checked out like that. We need your good brain fully engaged in helping us!” I never forgot that, and I don’t think she ever needed to say that to me again.
I thought last night about how wonderfully willing she was to do anything to help and comfort people. No task was beneath her. Picking up food, going to Target for gift cards, buying supplies for a staff event, giving people rides, decorating rooms for staff parties, doing lots of little things to make our time together more festive and fun and special.
The haunting song by the Talking Heads called Memories Can’t Wait is very much in my mind right now. At the end of the song David Byrne sings over and over, “These memories can’t wait. These memories can’t wait.” They can’t and I will continue my nightly sitting and remembering and being sad and grateful and weepy.
I know I should close with something Biblical or theological or spiritual, but the only thing that comes to me and seems right is the great line by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”