Thursday, May 27, 2010

Farewell to Pam Lamb

Yesterday evening, we bid farewell to Pam Lamb, a courageous member of our congregation who died of cancer a couple of weeks ago.

It is hard to describe Pam; she had a developmental disability but she somehow never missed a beat and she possessed an incomparable sense of humor. She lived with a group of people with similar disabilities and many came to her service yesterday along with several of caregivers.

Pam was especially fond of stuffed animals. She had dozens of teddy bears, and all of them had names and stories. We filled the front pew with her stuffed bears, and all were wearing nametags (thankfully, someone wrote down the names before she died). St. Paul's people also came with teddy bears, and I had one in the pulpit.

I don't usually post my sermons from memorial services, but this one I will:
Homily for Pamela Lamb
I have a few things I want to tell you tonight. First, Pam is Ok. Pam is healed. Everything that harmed and hurt and wounded her in her life on earth is wiped away. Gone.
If anyone is sitting at the right hand of Jesus, it is Pam Lamb.
There are times in our life when we meet someone who, by the standards of the world, is overlooked, or worse, pitied.
But if we are lucky enough to notice, we will meet someone who by the standards of heaven bring to us, in some mysterious way, to a sense of what it means to be touched and loved by the joyful presence of God.
Pam Lamb was one of those people.
You are here because you were lucky enough to be blessed by her.
I met Pam at a Shrine Mont weekend two years ago, the first time that Lori and I met this parish as a big group. For those of you not familiar with this parish, Shrine Mont is a rustic church retreat center in the northern Shenandoah Valley, and this parish goes there for a weekend every July.
We met many of you that weekend, and two years later, I must confess it was a blur.
But I remember Pam sitting on a rocking chair with a stuffed Teddy bear. She greeted me with a smile and talked with me as if she had known me her whole life.
The next time I saw her was here in this church. She sat over in the front pew every Sunday, and as soon as the sermon was done, she was up and gone. She would head on to the parish hall during the Creed and that was that.
Pam gave me a very real gift. She made real for me this fact: God is present in all of us, and God works infinitely through all of us, and God wishes only for us to have joy and mirth no matter our adversity, no matter our challenges.
It doesn’t matter how well you understand the creeds, or whether you have read and understood the tomes of Karl Barth. God’s work is done with us and through us in spite of all that stuff we carry around. Pam was proof of that.
Since Pam died, I’ve had a chance to re-read a small book by Henri Nouwen entitled “Adam: God’s Beloved.” It is Nouwen’s chronicle of being the caregiver to Adam, a man who shared many of the same disabilities as Pam.
Like Pam, Adam also died relatively young. Nouwen wrote this about Adam after he died – and Nouwen could have been writing about Pam: “I was struck by the mystery of this man’s life and death. In a flash I knew in my heart that this very disabled human being was loved by God from all eternity and sent into the world with a unique mission of healing.”
Nouwen went on to say that Adam had become the image of Christ for him. I think I know why: because grace comes to us not through strength, but though moments of vulnerability; God comes to us in many shapes, in many ways, and especially through people like Pam.
We so much need people like Pam because it is too easy to reduce God and grace to an abstraction, to an idea in a book or an argument on the Internet. Pam reminds us that our present is filled with grace too, that we need to be gentle with each other, to slow down and be present with each other because in those moments we will touch the heart of God.
Pam’s smile, her greeting and all of her stuffed animals were gifts from God to us – God gave her many gifts, and she gave us gifts of grace, faith, dignity, courage, and in the end, gifts of healing. May we always see them as so, and may we always hold her dear in our hearts. Amen.

1 comment:

Janice Dean said...

Thank you so much for posting your homily, Jim. I did not find out about the memorial service for Pam until 6:15pm yesterday, so I completely missed it. That made me almost as sad as when I heard the news that Pam had died. I am, therefore, particularly glad to have the opportunity to read your homily.

Thank you also for the reference to Nouwen's "Adam: God's Beloved." I read a copy of "Adam" loaned to me by Jane Rotch on my first anniversary trip, and it is a very special book to me. Seeing
at the bottom of your post brought a smile into my heart and caused me to ponder, if briefly, that Nouwen and Pam and Adam are all now in the same blessed community.