In about 1982 we met Bernice Grinnell. She was a member of our church. Her husband died. Shortly after that, she had a hip replacement surgery and had to stay in a rest home for a while. We visited her. I took Kyle along with me when I visited her. He was just a little tiny boy about two at the time.
There were no Christian services at the home so we started one. Every Friday about 11:00 I would go home and get little Kyle and go to the Regency Place for our service. Bernice spread the word and the room was always completely full of people. I would lead hymns and preach. Kyle would sit behind me in a big wingback chair and sing. Later when I preached he would always nod off into sleep.
In the way home he would say, “I want to sing â€˜This is My Story’ and then he would thunder out the chorus to Blessed Assurance holding out every word, This – .. is – .. my – – sto – – .ry, this – is – . my – song – .
We moved on from Niles where I was an associate pastor to a pastorate of our own and by 1995 we were starting a church in central Ohio. Bernice always stayed in touch. The winter of 1995 things were very thin for us. We were just getting by, struggling to keep furnace oil in the tank, the rent paid, and groceries on the table. We ate a lot of potato soup and whole-wheat bread. We had what we needed but little extra.
One cold, dreary, winter day when things were very thin and the cupboards were literally bare I drove to Coshocton to check on a job to supplement our income. The interview was a dead-end. I had no money for lunch that day. I dug in the seat of the car for change to get a cheeseburger. I asked for a glass of water. It was hard not to be a little discouraged. On the way back to Mt. Vernon, I stopped out in the countryside at a house where some of our things were stored. When I got out to the house and loaded some things in the van I called home to let the family know when to expect me. Holly answered the phone.
“Dad,” she said, excitedly “We got a letter from Bernice Grinnell today and it had one hundred dollars in it!” I hurried home singing a thankful song and remembering our dear friend Bernice who almost a decade and a half after we left Niles one day just decided to send us a gift. We drove to Aldi, filled the back of our van with food and drove home with a grateful song in our hearts. The kids all joyfully carried the food in the house.
We saw her when we were asked to return to Fulkerson to preach. We saw her at my grandmother’s funeral, and then at my grandfather’s funeral. She was always eager to hear news about the family, especially Kyle and Holly who were our only children when we were living in Niles.
For the last over seven years Bernice has been a regular Stonebridge reader. I don’t think she used a computer, but faithful my aunt Sue would print them out and give them to her to read. Sue wrote me this morning to tell me that Bernice’s funeral will be Wednesday. Sue said she had the last edition of the Stonebridge Newsletter with her in the hospital when she died.
She was a child of God. Her faith was firmly in Christ’s death for her sin. She was a faithful friend to our family. She is in the presence of Christ, reunited with her husband and others who have gone on before. Maybe she and grandma have connected and they are at Jesus’ feet together.
Back on this side of things this morning I feel a little pain that I didn’t visit Bernice one more time. In my heart a prayer forms; “Jesus, You are worthy and you have given me friends who are worthy, make me worthy of them.”
May 27, 2008