We agreed a good time for both of us would be right after the Senior Seminar—a weekly bible teaching followed by small group discussion. I had offered to come to her home but Lil was so busy with her volunteer schedule that there didn’t seem to be a place to fit me in. She wanted to plan her memorial service and, though it wasn’t exactly urgent, she felt that at age ninety it would be a good thing to get settled.
I met her in the seminar room and after clearing a path through the tables and chairs to accommodate her walker we hit the clear sailing of the church lobby. I was surprised at how fast we moved. The top of her head seemed to be about at my waist when she stood erect but when she was pushing the walker at full speed she was shorter still.
We arrived at my office and after getting settled I prayed that God would guide our plans by both honoring Himself and paying tribute to the memory of Lil at her memorial service. I told her I would be involved in everything except the date. She understood.
As we worked through the “thinking ahead” check list, it was apparent that Lil had done most of the background work and was well prepared. The only remaining thing seemed to be the order of the service.
I had questions that would help me know her better. She answered them with amazing detail and a razor sharp memory.
Her grandfather had moved to Russia from Germany at the time of Catherine the Great. Her parents were born in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1911. Lil was the first of eleven siblings to be born in the United States.
I asked when she came to know Jesus. “Oh,” she sparked with delight. “I can tell you exactly where and when. I was seventeen years old and it was in front of the altar at our German Evangelical Lutheran Congregational Church on 13th and Garfield.” Then she added, “It happened in German.” We both thought for a moment and then agreed that that would work.
A marriage of 26 years produced no children. She has two surviving sisters, both younger, but one is in poor health and that was a point of concern.
We talked about scripture and music. She had already prepared me for her request that I and another lady in church who also can only “make a joyful noise” would sing a duet. It seemed that we were planning a carnival for children.
Her favorite verses were Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 23:4. We decided to use these in the memorial program, but I would find another text to preach from. She wanted something different that people didn’t hear all the time.
We chose the people to do reflections. We agreed on the hymns and both knew we would close with I Love to Tell the Story. *
In double checking for details I said, “I think the only thing left for you to do is create a list of people that you want called at the time of your death.”
“Oh,” she said, in kind of a dismissing way. “I can do that myself.”
We shared a moment of tender insight. Neither of us had really come to grips with the purpose of this appointment.
*I Love to Tell The Story, Words: A Katherine Hankey, 1866. Music: William G. Fischer