No day passes without someone leaving this earth and another one showing up. Crying comes naturally on both occasions. And so we show up at funerals to say, “You mattered.” and at births “Welcome to this world.”
Take today, for instance. I’m in California, but watched the funeral service for Jody Gross at the First Congregational Church in Hamilton, Massachusetts, thanks to live streaming. We laughed a lot more than at most funerals. Why? Jody was funny, honest and goodhearted to the core. And so is her sister, Jan Webb.
Dick and Jody recruited many of us to Gordon College. They created a welcoming place and modeled true servant leadership. And they, plus a miracle, were a big part of why Jud and I joined their team in 1976. Dick was the President and Jud, the Dean of the Faculty. Jody, a Texan, nicknamed “Tex” in college, taught me much. Still does.
That first year was tough. I missed friends and the familiar back in Michigan. Renting, while hunting something to buy near Gordon, added to an unsettled feeling. But Jody helped the transition. We talked houses, our kids, and college responsibilities. And we worked out together at the Rhodes gym on campus. Afterwards we celebrated with a hot fudge sundae at a nearby Brigham’s. Jody remained petite. Enough said!
We celebrated Jody’s 90th birthday at my Perch. She loves a party. We loved her. Jody joined our book group after Dick died. Just three weeks ago today, our book group gathered to lunch and discuss our latest read. I miss her and dread the thought of seeing her empty chair when we meet next month.
Jody was rare. And God seemed to take delight in ways she lived out her faith. At our last book group gathering, Jody shared a story that’s sure to make you thankful you knew her. Or leave you wishing you had.
Picture a laundromat in Gloucester, not far from where fishermen docked their boats. Dick owned the business. Jody often worked there. Some fishermen came to do their laundry or drop it off after days at sea.
But one evening, a man showed up wearing the clothes and stench of one marked by hard times. Homeless. As the story goes, he walked over to Jody and stated the obvious, “These clothes need washing. Do you have other clothes I can put on, while these gets washed?” Well, no she didn’t. But then Jody, for no earthly reason said, “If you’ll go in that room and toss me your clothes, I’ll wash them for you.” She shook her head and laughed as she recalled that night long ago.
Well, he went into the room, took off his clothes and tossed them out to Jody. She put them in the washing machine. Then, realizing what she’d done, shouted (and she could shout), “While these are washing, I’m going next door to the Dunkin’ Donuts.” He answered from behind closed doors, catching on to her fears, “Don’t worry, lady. I’m not coming out any time soon.”
Well, the clothes got washed and dried and passed along to the man behind closed doors. After getting dressed, he came out looking and smelling like a new man. He said nothing, but as he walked past, he gave Jody a kiss on the cheek.
Today I found myself wondering, if Dick will have to get in line behind a whole lot of folks, eager to welcome HOME a pint-sized saint with a big laugh and an even bigger heart. Exact change not needed for unconditional love.
Well, he just may look at that long line, shake his head, laugh and shout, “Well done, Tex!”
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