This week, having been the first week since the passing of our dear friend Chet Thomas, has been a bit difficult. But we know Chet himself would have exhorted us to deal with our sorrow by simply keeping busy with the work God has entrusted to us -- and so we did just that.
That busy schedule included our outreach into nursing homes and senior living facilities that Chet was particularly fond of -- "When Swing Was King." As a matter of fact, we gave presentations in 5 different facilities this week with a 6th canceled because I had to preach Chet's funeral service yesterday. (Don't worry, brother Chet, we've rescheduled that gig for later this month.)
Also of great solace this week were five events which brought us alongside a lot of friends who brought their own memories of Chet. As we shared those together we were better able to celebrate his homecoming into heaven and to apply the enriching life lessons he left with us.
The first of these was on Monday night when Claire and I enjoyed a pot luck barbecue with Vital Signs Board members (and some of their spouses). We shared great food, nice weather and about three hours of conversation about our departed colleague which were of immense value. On hand were Quint and Carol Coppi, John and Barb Malek, Ruth Denzler, Matt Troutman, Don and Alberta Kohls, and Keith Moran.
On Wednesday Claire and I had a breakfast meeting with three members of Chet's family and then a lot of conversations at the mortuary later that evening. Then yesterday was the funeral at Glad Tidings Church and a reception following at Faith Bible Church.
I took the last hours of Wednesday night and all morning Thursday to go through notes I had made previously for the funeral service and found it to be a very comforting experience. I hope in delivering that sermon (part theology, part exhortation, and a big part the history and effects of Chet's life) I was able to pass along some of that comfort.
The reception at Faith was a wonderful ministry. The plans made by the family hadn't allowed for a post-funeral reception so Claire and I were putting together something at a nearby restaurant for at least some of the funeral participants. However, Allen Nelson persuaded the family to let Faith Bible Church (the place where Chet attended and where Chet was very much loved) host a dessert gathering afterward. And, though the church is miles away and not in the most popular part of town, close to 75 people showed up.
There were cookies, cakes and other delicious treats; there was plenty of coffee and conversation; and there were terrific testimonies shared about Chet's impact from such close friends as Quint Coppi, Dan Hazuka, Lyle Japp, Dave Bryce, Allen Nelson, and others. There was also a moving song perfomed by Amanda Coker. Taken together, these things constituted a lovely tribute, one which was deeply appreciated by those members of Chet's family who were present. It was a very gracious ministry of Faith Bible Church and it rightly honored their dear friend.
I am not relishing that moment on Sunday morning when I get behind the pulpit there at Faith Bible Church and look down to see Chet's usual chair unoccupied. Claire and I are going to miss him an awful lot. But these fellowship events of the past week have been a great help to us. Of course, the love, the laughter, the wise counsel, the inspiration, the common principles, the accountability, and the shared hopes of good friends should always be treasured. But it is in weeks like this last one that they seem even more keenly necessary.