Pastor Mitty and Memorial Day

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Pastor Walter Mitty felt a surge of satisfied contentment as he sat alone during the coffee hour at Poplar Park Community Church last Sunday.  No one was paying any attention to him.  Instead they were patting Ash on the back, shaking his hand and telling him what a good job he had done with the sermon that morning.

It was on Mother's Day that the idea came to him of asking Ash to give the sermon on Memorial Day.  The worship committee had asked Debbie Anderson to give a five minute sharing on the meaning of the Easter season from a woman's point of view.  The gospel for that day was from the seventeenth chapter of John in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples after he's gone.

Debbie had knocked the congregation's socks off.  She had talked about how mothers have the vocation of keeping their families united in the midst of all the forces trying to pull them apart these days.

It was especially moving to Pastor Mitty, because he alone in the congregation knew how her husband Eric was struggling with how to integrate his recently discovered sexual orientation with his role in the family he dearly loved.

"So why not ask Ash to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day two weeks from now?" Mitty asked himself.  "Heck, have him do the whole sermon.  It's Trinity Sunday, and I never know what to do with that doctrine anyway."

To his surprise, Ash had readily agreed.  The "police action" in Korea was America's forgotten war, Ash had replied, and this would be a good chance to remind the congregation that three times as many American soldiers died in Korea sixty years ago than have died in Iraq and Afghanistan put together.

Ash's pastor had thought that his Korean War vet would give a "war is hell" sermon to the congregation like he did at times at the men's breakfast at the Main Café on Wednesday mornings.

Ash surprised him again.  What he talked about for twenty minutes was his memories of how close he had gotten to his comrades in arms.  "There's something about going through hard times with a bunch of guys," Ash had said, "when day after day you see that they have your back, when they come through for you over and over even at the risk of their own lives.  We were like brothers."

"A lot of them are gone now," he had continued, "but I'll never forget them, especially on Memorial Day.  I guess that's why for me and Dorothy our marriage is stronger now than on our wedding day.  Going through the hard times together has made us stronger.  I'm sure that's what is going to happen with the people of Moore, Oklahoma as they recover from the tornado."

The Koran War vet said, "I guess that's one reason we come to church every Sunday.  To remember.  To remember the good times but also hard times we and Jesus have gone through together and to see that sooner or later we've gotten through them OK. . .together."

Ash finished by saying, "My grandson Ezra is into Christian rock music.  Last week he played a song he liked a lot by a guy named Marc Scibilia.  I thought some of the words might get at what I'm trying to say.

Life is too far to walk alone

You can't do it on your own

People gonna be ok

Storms never come to stay

They just show us

How bad we need each other

How bad we need each other
And the trials of today

They are signs along the way

To remind us

How bad we need each other

How bad we need each other
And I can get so high

On myself sometimes

I keep on drifting a million miles

From this planet
But what a shame it would be

To look back on this life

And realize that

I've taken you and you

For granted
People gonna be ok

Storms never come to stay

They just show us

How bad we need each other

How bad we need each other
And the trials of today

They are signs along the way

To remind us

How bad we need each other

How bad we need each other

As he listen to Ash read the words of the song, Mitty knew who would hear those lyrics as a blessing.  During the coffee hour he asked Ash if he could photocopy his sermon.  Later that day after driving up to Manitowoc for the second time in two weeks, he gave copies to Susan, Brian and Matt. 

"It's been almost a year since Herman died," he began, "and Ash's sermon today kind of put into words how I felt about being together two weeks ago.  I'd like to hear what you think."

As they read Ash's sermon, Mitty wondered how his teenage nephews would react.  He knew they were hurting and wanted affection but wasn't sure they could express that need openly.

As they finished they were tears in all of their eyes.  They didn't say, they couldn't say anything, but the group hug said it all.

"My nephews," he said to himself, "are maturing through all of this.  Thank you."



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