A Methodist church service includes something each Sunday that people in the congregation either love or hate: passing the peace. This is a custom where everyone stands and shakes hands with neighbors, and in the old days at least, they would say “Peace be with you." The other person would answer, “and also with you." Nobody ever says that; we all just gab and catch up. Sometimes the music director has a hard time wrangling everyone back into their places for the rest of the service.
Introverts despise this custom, and the extroverts can’t get enough. One Sunday there was a man in the Sunday school class I was attending at the time who told everyone he despised the custom . He could easily be mistaken for a grouch, but he had a wicked, dark sense of humor that I appreciated. He was called out of Sunday school early for some reason, and I hatched a plan that during the passing of the peace we would all rush him. We would vigorously shake hands, and the brave among us would hug him. I was the last person to get to him, and as I got close, I got to hear him snarl, “I know this was your idea.“ It warmed my heart to cause that much discomfort, and I think I might’ve even gained some respect in his eyes.
When I was new at the church, during another passing of the peace, an older woman shook hands with me and introduced herself and her sister: Anna Miller and Doris Jane. Their white hair said they were older, but their mannerisms said something quite different. Anna must’ve been somewhere around 80 at that point. The pianist started playing as a subtle nudge to get everyone back to their seats. Anna looked at the young man playing the piano and said, “That’s Mark.“ He couldn’t have been any older than 30 at the time. She said, “We can’t sit with him. We get into too much trouble.“ I knew right then that this woman would bear watching, and I was right.
If there was a joke or a funny story to tell, she was right in the middle of it. She had a mischievous twinkle in her eye every single time I ever saw her. She would regale us with stories of pranks she had pulled on her students as she trained them for nursing.
She drove a car that was over 20 years old. She had trouble getting it passed for inspection because the horn didn’t work. I always questioned her, “How aggressive of a driver are you that you broke your horn?“ She told me the story of the day it broke, and honestly, it might have saved her life that she couldn’t use it anymore.
On Monday of this week, I got an email from the church telling us that she had passed away. I am so sad that we lost such a happy, vibrant soul. I do know two things for sure: there is a super-tired guardian angel out there who is getting some much-needed rest, and there are a lot more laughter and hijinks in heaven now.