It was typically the east side door on the Wheaton Evangelical Church where we would wait. My dad, sitting in the driver’s seat, my sister Debbie beside me, and a vacant passenger seat… reserved for Grace.
My dad traveled extensively, and while he loved our church, he was never one to hang around the narthex. He was often on relational overload by the time Sunday rolled around, so mingling just wasn’t a part of the mix.
To be honest, I’m not sure that I would consider Grace to have been an extrovert; she was just vibrant, authentic, approachable, warm, sensitive… in other words, a magnet. She did her best to make it to the meticulously clean front seat that Sam had waiting for her, but there was only so much she could do. People loved her, and there was a price to pay for that love.
My father was many wonderful things, but waiting patiently outside the east door of the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church was a test for him. At a certain point he would look to the back seat and instruct me to re-enter the church building and “rescue” my mother. He was quite certain that she was aware that we were waiting for her, but her present “captivity” was something that would require outside intervention.
And so I would find her… most often surrounded; sometimes by the teen-aged girls that she taught in Sunday School (that might have been why I volunteered to go search her out), or by a young mom who was looking for advice… but she was always surrounded.
I would nudge her, just like a good sheep dog, toward the exit door; always respecting the fact that the circle around her felt blessed, and to some extent sacred. My father not withstanding, I wasn’t about to interrupt what was clearly a Holy moment.
Eventually we would press through the door at the side of the church, sometimes with individuals following us out to wrap up one last sentence.
Grace would slide, ever so gracefully, into the passenger seat… and Sam seemed content now. Not bugged, not frustrated, just whole again because Grace was beside him.
On February 5, 2002 my father passed into glory… and quite frankly he’s been waiting by the east door for Grace ever since. On March 17, 2010 the wait ended.