On December 2, 2017, I lost my beloved husband of 70 years. John was 94. He spent his final months with hospice care here in our apartment.
In a snowstorm a week after his death, an overflow crowd of friends and family gathered at our church, St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, for his funeral. Before the congregation went forward for the Eucharist (Communion, Lord’s Table) our granddaughter, Kerlin Richter, an Episcopal priest from Portland, Oregon, had this to say…
I have been asked this afternoon to do an impossible thing. I have been asked to say a few words about my grandfather, the man I called Papa John. A thousand words come to mind just with those two words. Everyone here has a thousand stories about him. They will tell you of his boundless curiosity, and his nearly pathological outgoing-ness, his ability to meet strangers and within seconds become friends. Papa John was able to see people with a clarity and compassion that was nothing short of holy.
As frequent as the people stories are the food stories, the meal preparation stories, the restaurant enthusiasms. He cooked and ate the way he saw people, eagerly and with his whole heart.
In his final years he became fascinated with the Eucharist, that place where prayer and dinner intersect. The Jesus we love was as fond of eating with friends as Papa John was. One day, during one of our “feet up” chats over the phone, I shared with him my favorite Eucharistic theology which I learned from an old Lakota priest one summer in South Dakota. Fr. Noisy Hawk said that the Eucharist is one eternal moment. The bread is only ever broken once. The cup is lifted up once. And every time we do this we are in that one moment. And there at the table with us in that moment is everyone who has ever held out their hands reaching for a taste of love.
Now again I am heading to that table. For a mystical feast where my grandfather and I and all of us here will eat together. Where we already are eating together as we always have been and always will be. And by the light of the love of God, we will see each other.
And so the last of my “few words” will be just these: “I miss you. I love you. I will see you in a few minutes at the table.”