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The Long Goodbye

by the Rev. Bob Olsen

The title for my article this month is the title of a Raymond Chandler book. A book I read many years ago but has nothing to do with this article – no Philip Marlowe or who done it. It just happened to fit with what I wanted to say. This last month I was mulling and writing my sermon for the last Sunday of August, in which I mention that I routinely remind folks about having wills and letting their family and St George’s know their funeral desires. As mulling usually does, my thoughts stray and I thought of the passing of my dad, who had a well and whose estate was in order in great detail. I also thought of my son Robert, who at 44 hadn’t given such things a moment’s thought. But that also isn’t my point for this month’s article, rather saying our good byes.

silhouette-1082129_1920I’m trying to remember when my dad started doing it, but at least for the last couple of years of his life he would call me daily, or at least every other day. I know he called my brother, Ron once or twice a day, as Ron lived close by so it wasn’t a toll call.  Dad solved the problem of trying to figure out when I’d be home by calling at 6 p.m., knowing that was our normal dinner time. Dad never had anything in particular to call about, maybe something he’d read in the local paper or possibly to tell me about running into someone I’d have known from living in Galt before leaving for college and joining the military.  I came to realize after his passing, it was his way of making sure he didn’t leave anything left unsaid.  While I grieved at his loss, there were no regrets that we hadn’t been in regular contact, that there was something I’d wished I had told him.  While I may not have appreciated those dinner time calls at the time, after he died I realized the blessing they had been.

I feel fortunate that Rob was living at home, where we talked about things every day, not like when he was living in Los Angeles and we might only talk once a month.  Finding comfort in Paul’s letter to the Roman’s: “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Rom 8:28). Having him at home rather than in LA, meant I knew he was doing well and could answer in the positive when the coroner’s office asked about his mental state.

Knowing he was looking forward to doing studio visits with his students in the Bay Area and bugging me about getting tomato plants from Green Acres as he had pulled out our winter garden and was looking forward to summer and home grown tomatoes. While I still have pain from his loss, I know we hadn’t left anything unsaid.

My prayer this month is that you think about those you love and think about when was the last time you were in contact. Our lives are so busy that we can lose sight of what is really important – maintaining our relationships with those we love. I pray that each of us makes time to, if nothing else, just say hi, I was thinking of you, so that when that unknown hour comes we won’t say to ourselves – “I wish I had told them…”


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