no liquids on your keyboard

I met him when I was eleven years old. I never could have known then how he was to affect my life. His oldest daughter became my best friend. You know the old, old gloves that fit no matter how your hands change over the years--the warm winter toboggan that ends up the focal point of every winter picture--that is what she and her family and her dad--my pastor during my youth--are like to me. Comfort, pure comfort--no matter when, no matter where--no matter how many years have separated us.

He is now up in his late eighties--Parkinson's has ravaged a once vibrant and zestful personality. Quite unbelievably though, almost every time I go to see him and his wife of almost seventy years, his old personality shines through. He, once again, is the young preacher with the spirited congregation worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth. His conversation is laced with old, amusing stories and tears when talking about starting a new church and preaching once more.

He is funny, quite animated and makes me smile and laugh out loud. He is the essence of the young preacher man who I have vivid memories of down on one knee, tears streaming down his face, talking to God in a loud, pleading voice with all the sincerity one could muster--yet, with one eye open ready to lovingly but firmly discipline the fidgety teenagers on the back row.

We respected and loved him so much though that it was a rare occurence when he rose from that knee and came walking purposefully toward that back row and let us know in a strong velvet-like voice that we were STILL in the House of the Lord.

Years after we sat under his fiery but compassionate preaching, my brother, with a twinkle in his eye, would joke about this scenario: (funny--I never noticed this but Johnny, who was a teenager at the time, did). My brother says that when a certain bosomy young woman, who always wore sweaters, walked up the aisle to the podium to sing a solo, Bro. B, as we called him, would always say, "Now, let's keep our minds on the Lord." I think my brother's guilt feelings had a part in embellishing that story just a little bit.

Recently when he was in the hospital and very sick, Bro. B told this story. It seems there was a certain preacher who had a reputation for his prayers being answered really fast. One Sunday a young overweight man came down front asking for prayer that God would help him lose weight. Quite confidently and loudly right before he started to pray, the reverend told the young man, "Grab your britches, boy." He has always loved to tell "preacher" jokes.

Bro. B has always fought giving in to the Parkinson's and becoming incapacitated and dying. Lately, the fight has not been going well. His daughter, my best friend, emailed me this morning to tell me that he has started talking about "going home." When one of his daughters asked him if he was referring to heaven, he quite simply said, "Yes, I am going home in a few days." I emailed my friend back to ask her if she knew that you weren't supposed to get liquids all over your keyboard.