My Godmother died in Christ on my 48th birthday.
The funeral was at the end of my birthday week, and I was asked to “say a few words.” Having been the officiating pastor at services where the family asked someone to “say a few words,” I felt compassion for the poor clergyman who graciously gave me a slot before the sermon and hoped for the best.
[Side note: this is good pastoral practice. You put anyone who is “saying a few words” before the sermon—or, depending on the situation, before the Invocation!—so that you can always clean things up when it’s your turn. I mean, you don’t have to be a jerk about it. But the actual Gospel gets to have the final say if I am doing the funeral.]
Out of sympathy for her daughter Kim and the rest of the family, I wanted to say something meaningful. Out of sympathy for the pastor, I wanted to keep it short. But mostly, I had a chance to memorialize my Godmother Barb without the burden of having to preach a complete funeral sermon.
So what I said was something like this….
I have known Barb Gohn since before I was born.
No, really. It was a year or two—maybe two winters before I was born, that my mom and dad, Dick and Deanna Rossow, drove down to Washington, D.C. to visit Dave and Barb over Christmas, and got snowed in. They went for two days; they stayed for two weeks. And during those two snowy weeks, a friendship was forged that, at least for us kids, became legendary.
That trip was the origin of a family tradition. That New Year’s Day, they grilled out steak and Italian sausage and made scrambled eggs with cheese and onions and mushrooms to go with it, along with English Muffins and homemade hash browns and a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s. And we have been celebrating New Year’s that way ever since.
I have many childhood memories of visiting Dave and Barb every New Year’s—that’s why Kim is more of a cousin to Brooke and me than anything else. And I still grill out every New Year’s Day with my family, and I’m sure my kids will grill out on New Year’s Day with their kids, unto the third and fourth generation….
Barb was my Godmother—I was thinking of a picture the other day, a picture of my baptism. You can see the pink and purple light of the stained glass windows shining on the baptism party, and Barb is holding me as a baby. I was just thinking of that picture and was amazed to find it up here on the photo-board. You can see it before you leave. That’s my mom and dad in the picture, and my Godmother Barb, and my Godfather, Galen.
[Addressing Galen’s family in the congregation:] Travis, have you seen this picture? You have got to check it out! I don’t know my American history well enough to know for sure, but I think that outfit your dad is wearing might qualify as a Zoot Suit! I mean, Galen! You guys made the 70s look good…!
Barb was my Godmother, and I learned a lot from Barb.
I learned that the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is a wonderful, almost mythical place.
I learned that, especially when it comes to 500 Euchre, it’s more fun to win.
I learned that Bloody Mary’s could be spicy. I mean, really spicy. I mean, really, really spicy.
But most of all, I learned that friendship is a gift from God—a gift God intends to last forever.
So I don’t know if we will do things like grill out in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. And I don’t know if we will celebrate things like New Year’s Day in the New Creation. But if we do, come find me. Because I’ll be grilling out. And I know my mom and dad will be there. And I know Dave and Barb will be there. And I know the Bloody Mary’s will be extra spicy.
I can’t wait to see you there.
[To Barb:] Barbara Ann, I can’t wait to see you there.