Expression of love embraces us all

Published 1:50 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

I’ve traveled this way many times, but it is different these days, I thought as my daughter turned in to the road that led us to Blue Lake Methodist Assembly last Tuesday. In September 2010, with my husband Claude, I drove to the Extreme Experience Camp for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It was his last visit to Blue Lake.

This day, I was on my way to Wesley Heirs, a gathering of retired ministers and spouses of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Claude and I had often attended these spring and fall events since 1995. When the spring 2011 Wesley Heirs notification arrived by e-mail, I had mixed feelings. As much as I looked forward to the sweet fellowship we always found at these gatherings, could I behave normally when my grief over Claude’s passing in late December was still so fresh? Could I step up and light a candle in his memory during the memorial service without experiencing a shower of tears? Would the presence of those wonderful godly friends comfort me or just make me more aware of my loss? Finally, pushing aside those fears and feeling the need to be there for the memorial service, I dropped my registration in the mail. I was glad I did.

During that spring meeting, I did light that candle during the memorial service when Claude’s name was among those called. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was a step in the right direction. Friends embraced me with friendship and love. I even got a good night’s sleep although I was aware of the empty bed next to mine. I realized that since I attended that first meeting without Claude, it wouldn’t be as difficult the next time.

Tuesday morning after my daughter helped me take in my luggage and left, I saw a dear friend who lost her husband in April. Neither of us knew that the other was coming. In seconds, we joined up as roommates. Later, as we circulated among the crowd, another friend arrived. Her husband’s death occurred just last month. I met another who lost her husband in March. Had these women experienced what I had felt? I didn’t ask. I treated them as others had treated me in the spring—with plenty of hugs and an expression of delight that they were there.

Wesley Heirs get together for fun, entertainment, fellowship, and worship. I can’t leave out food. Besides those delicious meals with the famous rolls prepared by the Blue Lake kitchen staff, several Wesley Heirs ladies fill a table in the lounge with delicious snacks. You will see us enjoying those treats after exploring the grounds, walks to the lake, and playing table games (some until all hours).

Wesley Heirs gatherings will never quite be the same again for my friends and me without our life companions. Yet I believe that expression of God’s abiding love through Wesley Heirs will continue to embrace us all.