Remembering a Beloved Clerk
April 28, 2018
These Memorial Reflections about Diane’s life began weeks ago, as if by some design, I could get ahead of the curve. Not the curve of minister busy-ness and church obligations. I mean ahead of the grief curve that would come– the sort of painful wave that crashes in on the writer’s thoughts and washes his notes away in tears. I stopped. It was a silly attempt, as we all know, to speak merely of attachment and then await the painful loss. There is not one without the other.
In the last months, my conversations with Diane and Joe were woven with the common strands of attachment and loss. On one afternoon we reflected and stared down our pending loss of Diane. I had remembered a snippet of prose from an ending scene in a Netflix series (“Godless,” Season One, Episode 7, 2017) : a Western-good-guy-bad-guy story that I had binged-watched over a weekend. A much beloved, youthful gunslinger had been killed. The townsfolk gathered at the cemetery. A new preacher had just arrived in time to offer his grave side remarks. The parson quoted something from an obscure prophet/poet which I had to google:
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be–
and oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
For your life has lived in me
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.
We loved Diane. In these last months with her, we were all part of Diane’s treatment plan for herself, which she directed, a faith-full treatment which included us in her faithful worship, her faithful studies at Word and Wine, Faith and Practice. She commissioned Joe who made sure we were all together for one last Holy Week, one more Palm Sunday and one more Easter. Diane’s faith in God was light and love for her.
Joe knew Diane’s faith early in their partnership. Diane was in Grad School at Stanford University. Joe had recently finished. The two decided to cross the bay and attend church services at Berkeley Presbyterian. On the way back, encouraged by Diane’s empathetic demeanor, Joe found himself telling her some personal things about himself, his life, his anxieties. Diane, ever attentive, listened.
It would be some years later that Diane confessed to Joe, “I knew that if I encouraged you to share, I would be drawn into a relationship with you. And I was willing to do that.” They began a common path of faith together, from a moment of tender listening. Joe would say, “It was she, not I, that understood the significance of sharing.” On a jaunt to church, a faithful journey began between the two. ‘Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing…”
We loved Diane and she loved us. She loved us with a love divine. The kind of love that echoed over chaos at creation and ordered land from water, and light from dark. She seemed to have been there with God from the beginning of time, auditing the class on decency and order. She understood that light and love could look like decency and order. Diane– the predestined presbyterian from the beginning of time who lovingly reminded us about the evil of chaos.
She loved Joe with this Genesis love. Diane was proofreader and personal assistant to Joe. It was commonly held that Joe was not allowed to send email, deliver reports, or speak his remarks before Diane signed off on a proofread. Joe would admit that sometimes at Session meetings he would begin to speak, then go off script. One night, Joe began his report and then it became clear to Diane and me that Joe was wandering off his prepared remarks in a sort of chaotic freelance. All the points Joe wanted to make looked like monofilament line coming off his spool. I looked at Diane to see if she could reel Joe back from the verbal darkness. Diane shook her head at me and whispered, “I don’t know what he’s talking about, either.” (Joe, sorry about this remark. It was for Diane.)
Diane loved with her Genesis love at Session meetings with the light and love of decency and order. She would forcefully nudge me with her elbow and call me back to order. “Mr Moderator, we haven’t voted on the motion before us,” she would say, politely. I suffered from Moderator Attention Deficit Disorder. But I was very glad to have Diane remind me to solve the hanging motions— like dangling participles. Diane was even good with those, a grammarian on site. She was also Amy Vanderbilt, too. Diane brought manner and kindness to our meetings.
The Diane of Genesis-decency-and-order, prompted our committee reports, slated our volunteer tasks, trained our elders. There was to be a time for everything under heaven. She reminded us that too much remained unscheduled— the Session calendar was void and dark. Let there be this day for a congregational meeting. Let there be this day for an elder training. Let there be this day for an Annual Meeting with annual reports submitted here. We shall have this month for a financial review and a review of the terms of call, too. I could hear a voice sounding over chaos. “We won’t finish 7 days of creation, if we don’t get busy.” Diane spoke and it came to be. And presbytery’s review of records looked on all that Diane had done for the Session and declared it good…without exception!)
Diane was willing to touch all and everyone with love, even though she knew it was a fearful thing. She invested herself— incarnate love in the ongoing work of redeeming us in our broken relationships. She loved us with a plan to help us be more faithful, more loving, in whatever personal darkness we nested. When one of our members whom Diane knew had been estranged and returned to church, Diane offered her greeting, “Hi. My name is Diane Woollett. Welcome.” It was if the person had been given new life. Her example led the way.
For Diane, there was a time and an artful plan for every matter under heaven from birth to death. Diane shared a tender story about her childhood play. In the evening, when it was time for Diane to come home her dad would turn the porch light on. She knew she had only a few minutes to get home. Moments before her death, Diane told Joe to turn the porch light on. It was time to go home.
Home is where Diane belongs. The home that Jesus mentioned to fearful disciples. The mansion home with many rooms. The home where Jesus would go in his appointed time to prepare for each of them. As Jesus promised, he would return at another time to take them home. There was always a light shining that would lead Diane home— home to a glad heavenly reunion with the One who heard her “borning cry and was there to guide her through the night and complete what was begun.”
(Glory to God, Hymn #488)
May Almighty God receive Diane Woollett into eternal rest and confirm to our hearts’ keep the gracious memories of her life among us, until that day when the light of God’s love shines brightly for all of us…and leads us home.