On Friday afternoon after what had been already two very full days of meetings in Halifax I snuck in a few minutes to get a haircut at a barber on Robie Street before heading to my last and final appointment of the day.
The barbershop was empty save for the barber watching a news program in what I think was a middle eastern language. He took notice of Rasta as he settled near the sofa at the back of the shop and I climbed in the chair.
"My son wants a puppy.", he began... and then continued with a story of his father and his father's dog and how the dog had died and what a great loss that was to him as a child. He ended the story saying he didn't want to get a puppy for the household as there is so much chaos and it would not be a good environment for the dog to be trained in. "We will wait." he said, "...until the children are older."
It seemed clear to me that what was preventing him from getting a dog was grief. I asked him, "Tell me some memories you have of times spent with your dad's dog and how you felt at those times?" He shared some stories and the words he used to described his feelings included safe, loved, happy, content and so on... it was a beautiful encounter.
As I left with a haircut and a freshly shaved neck (there is no feeling like it) he knelt down and had a heart to heart moment with Rasta - and I found myself thinking, perhaps he'll be getting his son that puppy sooner than later!
Rasta and I continued on to my final meeting of the day: a gathering with the family of the late Florence (Sullivan) (Atkinson) Hicks - known in Sackville for her many contributions to community life and to Sackville United for her deep commitment to the Parents and Tots Program and keeping the plants in the Church not just alive - but thriving!
We gathered in Jason's office, just off Spring Garden Road. Sandra and Eli were there in person and Edward and Brenda joined in via Zoom and we shared a deeply meaningful hour together telling stories and planning a celebration of Flo's life for September 10th. Following the formal service (as formal as Flow would want it - not much) there will be a party - a tea party, as we all know how Florence loved her tea and wanted you to love it too!
It was during that meeting that it slipped out - something I've slowing been coming to believe over the years of being with families in love and grief: that heaven has no pearly gates, that there is no one waiting there to take my name or check your name off of a list of naughty or nice. Heaven is not a place - up there. But rather it's a place in here - that place where you and I hold the memories of those we love. And for the first time (maybe the second) I said it out loud: heaven is that place where we are held in loving memory, held in the hearts of those who love us, whose lives we touched and who remember us with fondness and love, and for Flo, that covers a lot of real estate.
I can only hope that I too might be held in heaven by those I have come to love - and judging from the messages and cards I received from my children yesterday I'm at least approaching the dooryard - as I continue to try to be the person my dog thinks I am..
I know it's not a strongly developed theological treatise, and should the inquisitors within the Church come to examine me, it's not likely to have me 'within essential agreement'. But as I sacrifice my morning coffee to drink a cup of tea in honour of Flo this morning, and recall the memory of her smile and the smile of the barber with his face buried in Rasta's neck, wiping tears from his cheek as he stood - I'm ok with that.
Yesterday we had some issues with the sound. It would appear that all that was needed was a reboot of the MacBook in the Sanctuary - and yes, my reboot is coming soon - beginning in 10 days! All that to say, you will have been unable to hear the early portion of the announcements. Here is a link to the Update from the Executive. Please take a moment to read it. There is some important information in there.
Today I am off to Moncton early to visit at the Moncton area hospitals - including Wallie Sears. I'll be back in time for a Pad Thai lunch date with John Houstma at the Drew and a few other visits there before the first of two Zoom meetings beginning at 2:30PM. Remember, if you see Sandra Sears today, wish her a Happy Birthday!
Tomorrow I'll gather with the Preacher's Help Group at 10:30AM for our last Lectionary Study gathering before we pause for the summer. I am so deeply grateful for all in this group who gather week after week to share their insights, questions and faithfulness. You have all contributed to making me a better preacher (at least I think so...). At 2:30PM I'll drop Rasta off for his annual summer / beach / sand in trailer reducing haircut, after which we'll make our way to the events for National Indigenous Peoples Day in Sackville.
On Wednesday after our Seniors Sharing the Table gathering at the Church I have three pastoral visit scheduled - the last one is at Ducky's at 4PM - drop in and say hello!
Thursday will be my last working from home writing a sermon day until the fall. Can you sense my excitement!?!? On Thursday evening I have a Zoom meeting related to the series of meetings that were held in Halifax last week and then I am done for the weekend (Friday and Saturday for me) and I am so looking forward to joining others at a grad party on Saturday for Fiona - regrettably we can't show off our painted toes as we must all wear closed toe shoes at the venue!
On Sunday we gather at 10AM as this is the first of our Summer Sunday Gatherings (the days are now getting shorter) and this is my last Sunday of leadership until September 11th. Ten weeks of no preaching. 5 weeks of vacation and 5 weeks of Sabbath Time. I am so very thankful for this opportunity and the leadership of those who have made it possible. I am available to respond to pastoral emergencies but I do hope they will be few and far between. We will make this shift to summer with ice cream sundaes following our Sunday Gathering - hope to see you there!