Parson to Person: “What I Meant to Say,” Nov. 6, 2020

Last Sunday, at our Day of the Dead service, I told a story that was missing a few details, so it might not have made complete sense. (The problem was that, in collating my pages for the sermon, I inadvertently left out a page. I didn’t realize it until I came to the part of the story that was missing and thought: “Am I missing something here?”) Anyway, for those who might be interested, here’s the story as it should have gone.

My first story is from one of my favorite authors, lecturers, and workshop leaders: Doug Adams. (Not the Doug Adams who wrote A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–but a therapist who works a lot with dying patients and their families.)

“Albert was in his mid-nineties. He was terminally ill and seemed unresponsive. He lived in his home with his wife. She was in her mid-nineties also. Although she was not terminally ill, she was about as responsive as Albert was.

“My first two visits with the couple consisted of me sitting in one chair, she in another, and Albert lying in the bed.

“My third visit I noticed something in Albert’s room that could have been there the first two visits, but I might not have been very attentive those first two visits. It was a book, a book on Albert’s bedside table. That alone should have clued me into something: What was a book doing on the bedside table of someone who is supposedly unresponsive? Also, it was an unusual book to have on the bedside table of someone who was dying. The book had a title something like ‘The History of Black Baseball.’

“I went over to the bedside table and picked up the book. Albert, whose eyes had not opened, must have somehow realized that I had that book in my hands because I heard the first sound from him. It was an ‘Ummph.’

 (And here’s the part I accidentally left out:)

“I turned to Albert and saw his hand move. I had never seen his hand move. He extended three fingers, then two. He did it again: three fingers then two. Again. Finally I realized that I needed to turn to page 32 in that book. On page 32 was an old photograph of a man named ‘Albert,’ nicknamed ‘Speedball.’

“I turned to Albert. ‘Speedball?’  I got an ‘ummph’ with a smile. ‘Did you know Satchell Paige?’ Albert’s eyes opened.

“It’s amazing (Doug Adams concludes) how showing interest in someone’s life work–even if it’s an accidental showing of interest–can literally bring people out, even out of ‘unresponsive.'”

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For those of you who were at the service and were trying to figure out the story, there it is; I hope it makes more sense now. For those of you who weren’t there, I still think it’s a good enough story to print on its own. And for those who would like a printed version of the whole sermon, click on: https://ucnorth.org/services/day-of-the-dead-rev-tony-larsen/

Meanwhile, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had mixed feelings at the results of the election. (I guess I must have hoped it would be a slam dunk, and it wasn’t. On the other hand, it turned out better than I feared it might.) So, with mixed feelings–but with continuing commitment–I march on with all of you, praying:

“We may not see all our hopes and dreams come true–but we will know we were there in the trenches, and there on the streets (when we could), and there on the highways and byways and courtrooms.  And we fought for the good, and did what we could, and stood where we should; and we didn’t see it all come to pass, but we passed on the dream that was given to us, and we know and believe that that is enough. So let it be, Blessed be, and Amen.”

peace and unrest,

tony