The following is an excerpt from a novel I have been wrestling with. . . . . . .
Reverend Eugene Goodway was at his desk at the church preparing for Sunday sermon. Nothing about this cool fall Thursday morning was different than any other Thursday morning he’s had in the last 38 years as a Baptist minister. Thursday morning was always the day Eugene would put the finishing touches on his upcoming sermon. He would write the whole thing on paper throughout the week then type it all first thing Thursday. The typed copy was always double-spaced so he could read the whole sermon aloud and stop to insert comments or corrections wherever needed.
After his freshly-printed sermon was in his hand he could go about the business of making his morning coffee. The kitchen was connected to the Fellowship Hall which sat behind the auditorium. Eugene’s office was at the front left corner of the auditorium. The church was not a large church by any means. On any given Sunday the First Baptist Fellowship would average around 120 people.
So while Eugene was making his morning coffee in the kitchen he could hear the phone ringing in his office ever so faintly.
Three years ago Eugene lost his wife of 47 years to a long battle with cancer. Cathy was involved in every aspect of ministry the church offered. She was the church secretary and small groups leader and choir director all wrapped up in one petite-framed, red-haired ball of fire. Eugene often told the congregation that his wife, Cathy, really ran the church but was gracious enough to allow him some podium time on Sunday morning. Cathy’s battle with cancer was a very public, honest, and raw experience for all the members at First Baptist Fellowship. Eugene spoke openly to the people every week about watching his one true love and best friend fall to pieces.
After Cathy’s passing, Eugene felt led to start a class on grieving to help himself and those close to Cathy grieve her loss. As other members in the congregation and people throughout the community lost loved ones, Eugene felt best about keeping the class on grief going every week even after he felt him and his people sufficiently grieve Cathy’s loss. He had a weekly ad in the local paper that ran every Wednesday so typically he would get a lot of inquiries about the class on grieving Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings. So, when he heard the phone ringing—more faintly echoing through the empty auditorium—he didn’t think anything of it.
“They can leave a message and I’ll call them back after my Cup-O-Joe is done brewing,” he thought to himself.
Just as soon as the phone stopped ringing it started to ring again.
“Wow,” he thought, “must be a lot of interest in the grief class this week,” as he was filling up his mug.
No sooner than the phone stopped ringing the second time it started to ring a third time. He picked up his pace through the hundred and 40 person capacity auditorium towards his office in hopes to catch the phone. While rushing through the office door his eyes were so fixed on the ringing phone he neglected to see his outstretched elbow heading straight for the doorframe. When his elbow made contact with the doorframe, a chain reaction of unfortunate events started in motion. Half of the coffee that was in the mug went sailing towards the front of his body instantly staining his favorite yellow polo shirt and khakis. The hot, freshly brewed coffee soaked through the shirt and pants so fast that he attempted to set the coffee on the desk faster than normal in order to relieve his scalding belly and legs. However, misjudging the height of the desk caused him to catch the bottom of the mug with the top cover of his desk sending the other half of the coffee steamrolling across his desk staining everything the hot liquid came in contact with—including his freshly printed sermon for the upcoming Sunday.
With the phone still ringing and the coffee still running off the other side of the desk, Eugene let out a few mild curse words under his breath then reached for the phone.
“First Baptist Fellowship, Reverend Eugene speaking.”
They must’ve hung up the very second he picked up the phone. He grabbed about 10 tissues out of the box and tried to slow down the running coffee when the phone rang again.
Debating whether to answer the phone or clean up his mess he decided to reward the caller’s persistence seems how this was the fourth call in a row without them leaving a message. Most of the church was well trained since Cathy’s passing to leave a message and he would return their calls as soon as time would allow. The decision to not replace Cathy as secretary was a difficult one by Eugene just couldn’t see himself working side-by-side on a day-to-day basis with anybody but his Cathy. For this reason most every church member understood that he turned his phone volume down when he was meeting with a board member or counseling a young couple about to be married. The church members realized that one man can’t do 20 things at once or couldn’t physically be in three places at the same time so they usually gave him plenty of time to return their calls. Even though Cathy made it seem like she could do 20 things at once and she could be in three different places at the same time, he didn’t have the office skills she had, nor would he ever. Half annoyed by the coffee spill and half annoyed by the non-stop ringing phone he picked up the receiver with an obvious frustrated tone in his voice.
“First Baptist Fellowship. . . . . ”
“Dad! Dad! Thank God, I got you! Dad, it’s Jennie. Samuel was in a terrible accident on his way to work this morning. We just got to the ER and the doctor said he doesn’t look good. They said we need to say our goodbyes soon in case he doesn’t pull through. Dad, when they were getting him on the ambulance and taking him into the ER he told me he loved me and then he said to call you.”
“He had tubes in his mouth but I heard him plain as day, he said call my dad then he gulped and said call dad, I nodded and said I will then as they were wheeling him away one last time with his eyes closing he said again, call dad!”
“He really wants to see you! How long till you can get here?”
“I’m on my way!”