One man's life guided so many others. How did this happen so naturally?
|Writer's Cramp Win
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“He was a nature guide, for heaven’s sakes.” Pastor Thomas peered at the church overflow room in some angst. “Where am I going to put them all? And this the most populace season. The practicing carolers, the nativity scene? Where will there be room? ”
Amy Strong began pushing her strong sons towards the rows of folding chairs. “Set them up in nice neat rows, boys, facing away from the morning sun. Anthony? Go set up the loudspeakers so they can hear every one of Pastor Thomas’s words.”
“You are a godsend, sister Strong. They are wheeling in the man’s casket now. I hardly knew the man except by church gossip. I’ll be fumbling for anything worthwhile to say.”
“You’ll be fine, Pastor Thomas. I’ve taken care of that for you, as well.” A dimpled smile shone briefly in view.
“What’s this?” The head speaker at most country town funerals asked in bewilderment. A basket full of folded pieces of paper was thrust in his hands.
“There were too many more to fit in the first tithing basket. The money underneath the slips of paper is yours in honor of Matthew Straight, nature guide.” She swiped at a stray lock of hair escaping her head. “There are more on the first row church pew if they are needed.”
The look on the pastor’s face grew less agitated as he unfolded the first slip of paper. It almost flew out of his grasp like it bore butterfly wings instead of paper ones. He adjusted his spectacles and read, “Our lives are reflected not by what we say or do but by who and what we choose to surround ourselves with.”
“Oh my, he was a philosopher in the wild.” Thoughts were tumbling in the man’s head. He followed the homely looking casket inside and made his way to the podium. Organ music followed him. It slid into the hushed silence as all eyes turned to the pastor. Most were shiny with new tears still resting on their cheeks.
“The man you all came to honor only came into this church once in all the years he lived here and that was today.” Pastor Thomas began. Chuckles met his words, filling the rafters with a warmth rarely felt from one end of the church to the other.
“And this is not his final resting place. It is where he loved to be and where he walked with you, my parishioners, each and every day he walked the earth.” Whispers of agreement and nods of heads met that remark.
“He surrounded himself with nature, pointing out its scenic views and wild wonders as you shared your troubled spirits. Which do you remember most?” He paused as yet another basket full of offerings and folded notes was brought up front.
“Let me read to you what some of you thought about in remembrance of this man you called more than a friend, more a brother in arms.”
He gave a theatrical pause while lifting the note in his hand and read aloud once more, “Our lives are reflected not by what we say or do but by who and what we choose to surround ourselves with.”
Pastor Thomas saw heads nodding. It was like watching waves in a sea there were so many. “How many of you wrote words like these? Raise your hand if you were one.”
Every hand shot up into the air. Laughter erupted there as well when the Pastor began lifting one note after another to read the same message thereon. People turned to admire the view they had surrounded themselves with. Each one had thought they themselves the secret friend when surrounded by mother nature during a solitary walk with the nature guide. Now the truth lay right before their eyes.
“The best sermon I ever gave in my life and this man gave it for me. Surround yourselves with each other along the path of life and you will be blessed.”
It was the very next day that Pastor Thomas began putting on hiking boots to wander the nature paths behind his church. First one, and then another of his flock began to join him for a moment’s sharing of a care or blessing they were concerned with.
The good pastor began looking forward to his own funeral day, when all his friends would join together to share a last moment with him. But even more, he wished for that day to come so he could meet the nature guide, Mister Matthew Straight, who’s path had shown him the way to heaven’s gate.