Today’s Word from Pastor Jim

Joe Pine was born on the 23rd day of May 1930. He came to Trinity Lutheran Church late in his seventh decade of life. Joe was a part of our Sunday morning roundtable group that met at 7 a.m. for the 8 a.m. worship service. Spike, Christy, Betty, Ken, and several others would have early coffee and a few cookies as they prepared their hearts or stomachs for worship. Joe had retired as a chef from Vito’s in Seattle. He was named “chef of the year” in the state of Washington one year. Joe was a volunteer at the M-Bar-C Ranch. He served thousands of meals there. He also served hundreds of meals to his TLC Family. Joe was one of 15 children born to Mary and Frank Pine of Newport, Rhode Island.

Joe died on April 14, 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last Sunday a legal group of masked social-distancers gathered outside at the M-Bar-C Ranch to celebrate Joe’s life, to grieve his death, and to claim the promises of God. Though Joe had hundreds of friends, the service was private, restricted to his family, a few of the M-Bar-C volunteers, and his Whidbey Island pastor. Joe’s son-in-law and grandchildren sang a variety of country gospel songs, there was laughter and tears as the story of his life was shared. After a pastoral meditation on life and death, a closing prayer set us off for graveside.

I piled into a Gator (a golf cart on steroids) and led the procession deep into the Trillium Woods. Close behind me was a wagon full of mourners. Somewhere behind them the horses were mounted. The trees were tall, the trail was narrow, light and shadows danced through the forest. We finally arrived at the “en ramada,” a clearing in the woods beneath a natural canopy of stately limbs. A lone cross stood on the highest part of the clearing; on the cross was a stone plaque bearing the names of fallen riders, of dearly departed cowboys and cowgirls who had ridden these trails while serving at the ranch.

Almost silently through the woods moved the funeral cortege, six cowgirls on magnificent horses were followed by Joe’s old mule. The burden of her load was not measured in pounds, as the mule carried only a neatly folded United States flag and the cremated remains of Joe Pine. When the prayers were said and the ashes were returned to the earth, the final verse of Amazing Grace would lead the assembly to a silent reverence. One by one, or two by two, cowgirls and cowboys labored toward the cross, they removed their hats and rested them over the names of their fallen comrades. With heads bowed they paid their respects and uttered silent prayers. I was deeply moved, it was good to see faith, ritual, and grief co-exist in the “en ramada.”

Joe was gone, crossed over to the other side, no more pain, no more tears, fourteen siblings there to greet him, the nail scarred hand of Jesus holding his hand. Reflecting upon this journey and the frail group of old cowpokes who were gathered, I could not help but think of a waiting room. Those who came to remember Joe were actually just waiting their turn, soon they too would have their name chiseled on the stone that was mounted on the cross at the “en ramada.” Soon the list of fallen riders would grow.

“We will give the last word to Pastor Jim.” “Thus says the Lord, he who created you, he who formed you: fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior…… you are precious in my sight and honored and I love you.” Isaiah 43.

Thanks Joe! We will see you soon. We will see you on the other side.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim

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