Word of the Week

Rest in Peace, Danny

In a previous lifetime it seems, I was a student associate pastor at Providence United Methodist Church in Goldsboro, NC.  I loved this church for the ways that they encouraged and supported me during my final year of seminary. The robe I preach in every Sunday was a gift from this congregation, in fact.

I got to know this congregation in a way that I probably will never know another church because during my 9 month tenure there, the congregation supplied my housing and food. I spent an entire month (on the weekends) with one family in the church as well as lunch after church with a different family.

In February 2006, I wrote this post about one such family, the Brocks. I still get the newsletter from Providence each month and this week I read that Danny Brock passed away last week. My heart was sad to hear this news, but also glad to know that he's finally at peace. I called the post: "Unexpected Blessings."

When I begin the 90 mile trek to Goldsboro, NC on Saturday afternoons or evenings, often times I go expecting very little out of the Saturday night stay over experience. It is hard to give up a weekend night. And it is hard sometimes to spend the night in a parishioner’s home because when I am there I am no longer Elizabeth, but Elizabeth the pastor. I feel like my every move is being watched and judged (such as when I go to bed, how I fold the towel in the bathroom, how much coffee I drink for breakfast, etc). And, the sacrifice of not sleeping in my own bed seems a bit too much to endure sometimes when I’m facing a long day at church the next day. Ok, so you hear me using my complaining voice. . . .

But, during the month of January, my host family, Danny and Lynette gave me new perspective on why I do the job I do once again but more importantly what it means to joyfully embrace life—no matter the circumstances.

It is important to note here that Danny spends most of his days in his wheelchair. He can not dress, bath or feed himself without help. Danny will proudly tell you that he used to be a lineman, working for the local electric company. But, in 1991, a freak accident occurred and as a 15-foot, 200 pound poll fell on one side of his body.

Doctors told Lynette and their three boys that Danny would probably not make it through the night. But, Danny fought through many nights ahead with the support of his family. Lynette brought him home as soon as she could learn how to take care of him and now Danny can even walk with some assistance.

So, even though Danny’s physical abilities are now limited, Danny has many gifts to offer. His smile and delightful spirit lightens up any room he is in. I felt this way when he called out across the room, “Elizabeth, I’m glad to see you.”

But, beyond Danny’s positive attitude and love of life, he also loves others deeply. Before I could even begin a conversation with Danny, he handed me a pack of his own design of greeting cards and a scissor holder made from a paper towel dispenser and construction paper. I was so taken back by these homemade gifts because I knew not only how much time Danny had spent making them (using his one mobile arm), but because of the income I knew he received from the greeting cards.

Since his accident, drawing had become Danny’s passion. His drawings had won him awards in the county fair and were prominently framed all around his bedroom. I felt so special to have some of Danny’s artwork as my own. But beyond just being around Danny and hearing more about his hobbies, I learned much from Lynette too.

From the moment Lynette and I began to talk, I quickly learned she was with a woman of courage. As I listened to her tell me about Danny’s accident and how it had shaped their lives, I was overcome with awe. She was so joyful! Lynette praised the many doctors, friends and church members who had helped them financially and in gifts of time and service. And even though her days were now consumed with Danny’s care with limited trips out of the house for herself, she keep thanking God for how she felt God’s presence with her day in a day out. While Lynette did she expect her life to turn out as it did, God’s grace was sufficient. She and Danny were very blessed, she said. Grace got her out of bed each morning and sustained her through the lonely and uncertain moments. And, all I could think is, “Wow, my faith is so small!”

And, so after spending three Saturday nights with them, I too found unexpected blessings. Blessings of seeing my life from a perspective outside of myself, the blessing of being loved by one who gave me the best he had to offer, and the blessing of encouragement from a woman of great faith. Even though driving 250 miles each weekend can be an inconvenience, some of God’s most authentic saints do indeed live in Goldsboro, NC.

So, I’m glad that I get such precious moments of getting to know people like Danny and Lynette when I get there.

Danny, rest in peace! Thanks for all you did to shape me in my becoming a pastor. Much love!