"More peas, I think," as I asked what he wanted to eat next. I sang at his retirement celebration 14 years earlier and now I stood beside his hospital bed, feeding him dinner.
There was something tenderly profound as I chose the next spoonful of food from his hospital dinner. What would he like now? Should I mix it all together so he gets something from each food group or does he like to eat one item at a time (like me)?
I grew up attending church and I originally met this "man of the cloth" when I was 4. He came to our home for a visit and I promptly climbed up on his lap while he talked to my mom and dad. The rest, as they say, is history. We bonded that day and decades later, after not having seen him in years, that bond remained even though he didn't really remember me. I will forever cherish that one brief moment when his eyes did light up with recognition.
It brought me full circle as I pondered the spiritual food he had prepared for his congregation -- for me -- all those years ago. What did we need to hear, what was the heart of the current matter? Did we need some hearty "vegetables" to nourish our spirits or a little dessert to sooth our souls? His unconditional love, his encouragement, his words of hope -- he truly was an example that I could emulate and learn from.
Spoon by tiny spoonful I remembered moments we'd shared. Staying in their home when my parents were away, his wife standing beside me at camp as I sung my very first solo (grade 3 I think), him baptizing me as a teenager, his daughters picking me up so I could attend events, him and his wife hugging me and telling me what a good girl I was.
He always, always, always encouraged me. Up until the last couple of years he'd call my parents for my phone number so he could check in on me. My spiritual journey hasn't always led me to people of his calibre, so as I reflect on what he represents in my life, I become more grateful with each moment that I've at least had this relationship -- this trusting, healthy, loving example.
A lady visiting another patient asked about my connection to this man. She could tell we were close.
My teenagers watched our exchange from the end of his hospital bed. One cried openly, observing not just the tenderness of the moment, but recognizing this circle of life experience as something deeply meaningful and most definitely memorable.
In sharing with you, my hope is that you will be reminded of times in your life that others impacted you in a positive manner. Maybe a person or people you haven't thought of in years. It could be a teacher, a neighbor, an old friend, the grocery store clerk, your grandparents -- anyone who participated in your formative years.
Take a deep breath, hold that thought, reflect on it and remember. Be grateful. Be mindful of the good, because it's there. Extract what it meant to you -- not just the person but the experience(s). Acknowledge how it has weaved itself into the threads of your life, the tapestry that hangs as a banner of who you are today.
No one of us gets to where we are without the influence of another. Pastor Gilbert is a part of who I have become, a part of the legacy I will leave when it's my turn to go.
Legacy is not leaving something for people, it's leaving something in people.
I wish everyone could have a Gilbert in their life.