Cynthia Logan, one of the pastors at First Presbyterian in Dallas, retires today. We’re asked weeks ago to contribute to a remembrance book for her, but work and snow and re-doing work because of the snow has put a hitch in being so advanced. And, I’d always intended to put what I wrote for the book on the blog too. I thought it appropriate given that this blog was begun in part out of grief for my father and Cynthia was instrumental in making that process transformative and good.
I began attending First Pres after I finished my dissertation. The church I had grown up in had closed, a not uncommon fate for small inner city churches, and I had let attending church slip as I completed my dissertation. (No question, however, that faith, my family, and good friends sustained me through that process.) I went about finding a new church all wrong. I slipped into the back of the sanctuary one Sunday morning in May, spotted a bunch of Trinity folk, heard Joe Clifford speak, and some how knew that was my church home. Oh, I visited off and on for a whole summer, but I knew that first Sunday I wasn’t going anywhere else.
Part of the reason I felt at home was Cynthia. She literally beamed from the front of the sanctuary, her sunny joy filling the room. I loved the way she sang. Her mouth open the wide the way we’re taught in choir, her head thrown back. When Cynthia sings, her whole body and mind is dedicated to it. She called me friend from the first day we meet, and I always feel loved when I’m with her.
Her joy and love sustained me through my father’s illness and death. She came to the hospital so many times. She, I think, thought the family a little crazy as we told wildy inappropriate, if funny stories after dad passed. (Dad loved inappropriate jokes and laughing, so it fit.) Cynthia told me that my mother would be so upset if I didn’t take the job here in Arkansas, that her heart’s joy was seeing me be happy and successful. (She was right about everything, and I couldn’t have found a better or more supportive place to be.)
Most of all, Cynthia didn’t offer empty platitudes. She simply said that there were stages to grief–not the five stages thing–but larger swaths of time. The first one is bereavement, and then the funeral is supposed to help transform bereavement into grief. She also said it was possible to grieve well. I never thought of grieving as being good, but she was right again. It is possible for grief to be good, healing. It’s a different state of being but not necessarily a bad one.
I miss Cynthia’s beaming smile here in Arkansas, and I’ll miss seeing it from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. But I know she’s still, and forever, my friend.