Last Saturday I attended the memorial service for Trish Opheen Redmond. About 17 years ago Trish and Mike were part of a marriage retreat Kim and I led for the Chugiak UMC. Trish was an active and vital leader for the church who had knee surgery so she could enjoy her love of skiing. On the way out of the hospital she fainted and never revived even though medical care was immediately available. An apparent blood clot blocked the flow of vital oxygen to her brain.
And suddenly, without warning, a vibrant, energetic, compassionate woman left this world. When someone in their 80's or 90's dies we understand that she or he has lived a long life. But when someone dies "before their time" it gives us pause. Somewhere deep inside we wonder out loud, "This could happen to me. This could happen to the people I love."
It did happen to Mike and his family and the entire Chugiak church. It was clear that the church building would not hold all those who would come out of love and respect for Trish so the Chugiak High auditorium was made available. It was in that space that we had church. Pastor Carlo Rapanut led us in a time of worship and remembering. We sang hymns from the Faith We Sing hymnal that were Trish's favorites. Chugiak member, Jan Wachsmuth, sat near me. I noticed that people were not singing, probably because they did not know the hymns. I am not one to sing loud, mostly out of a desire to save my voice for preaching. But there in that holy place where church was happening Jan and I raised our voices a notch or two. I had a sense that we were helping to fill the empty space that Trish had left with hope, the kind of resurrection hope that only comes from God. It felt like we were witnessing to our faith with our singing.
I wondered what people thought of us as United Methodists. I found myself grateful that Trish was loved by so many people that we had to hold her service in the school auditorium. It was a moment of intersection of Christ and culture, of church and society. It felt right.
Trish did not choose to die. But the way she lived, so full of life and passion and joy, gives me an example to follow. I am not promised tomorrow. God only gives me today. God help me to live like Trish lived, fully present to the moment, fully present to God who is the source of our love and joy.