The Note Keeper and the Name Keeper
Summer 1976 . . . The handwritten note was left behind for me on the seat of our ‘75 Ford LTD. Sue and I were headed home after exchanging last goodbyes with friends following a chicken BBQ put on for us by our church family in N. Yarmouth, Maine. We were headed for the Mile High City to begin studies at Denver Seminary. The note was from Anne, a teen in our church where I had just concluded my ministry as youth pastor. To say the least, Anne was quiet and withdrawn. Conversation for her was painfully difficult. Knowing her to be a lover of books, I had reached out by enlisting her help to bring order to the chaos of our church library. So on Wednesdays, after school, Anne came by to tend the shelves. I’d meet and greet her with a smile, small talk and some guidance. In time for our departure, Anne had put pen to paper to communicate what she could not verbalize – gratitude for kindness and care she had received from her youth pastor. I was surprised. Until that moment I’d not realized the significance those few minutes of weekly interaction had held for her. I kept the note.
Winter 1988 . . . “So glad to hear you are back in the area” were the words that welcomed our return to New England. That’s all that the unsigned note stated. As I studied this cryptic fragment of a sentence and looked at the postmark, a thought occurred to me. I rummaged through my files and located Anne’s first note. It was her script.
December 1990 . . . My favorite preacher says that one has to make small talk before one can step up to big talk. I’d just add that in some cases it can take years to reach the plateau of big talk. I didn’t hear from Anne for some time until one day when a lengthy letter arrived asking for my help. She just didn’t know who else to turn to for counsel. Very late in her first pregnancy Anne suffered the miscarriage of her baby. She and her husband were devastated. Coming to terms with the question of why she, why they, must experience this loss was troubling enough. But the biggest question in her mind was, “Will I see my baby in heaven?” Could I help her with an answer?
I did my best. She received a full page letter with my best pastoral counsel, encouragement to spend some time meditating on Psalm 139 and the requisite book, “I’ll Hold You in Heaven” by Jack Hayford. By grace, the Lord used all of that to bring a strong measure of healing and peace to Anne’s life. So much so, that Anne, still on rare occasion, actually took to calling me – for both small talk and big talk. Sadly, life seemed to have more downs than ups. Among the downs . . . poor health. But despite that, God did favor Anne with two healthy children who have grown up to love the Lord.
10:12 AM Friday October 5, 2012 . . . “This is Roland M _ _ _ _ _, Anne’s husband. I was going through my wife’s pocketbook and found your name and number on a slip of paper. I said to myself, ‘I have to call this man.’ I wanted you to know that Anne passed away yesterday.” That’s not a call I was expecting this morning – not any morning. But those calls come, expected or not. We talked a good while about Anne – her life, the strength of her faith and her appreciation for a one time young pastor whose name and number she’d kept in her pocketbook through all her troubled years.
What to make of all this? Well, for starters, one might ask, “Does anyone keep your name?