Friday, December 20, 2013

Guest Post: Two Lives, Two Losses

My friend David Weaver, a volunteer at Our Community Place, sent me the following reflection yesterday, which I share here in a slightly edited form with his permission. Lewis Burkholder was a well known Mennonite pastor closely connected with David's family. Jess Sager's obituary in today's Daily News-Record highlights some of his many achievements prior to his becoming mentally ill and homeless:

Lewis Burkholder 

Pastor and farmer Lewis Burkholder grew up in the Denbigh Mennonite community and married Helen Ross from another Tidewater family. Lewis grew up in a loving, hard-working dairy farm family and as a young married man worked for my dad on his farm.

Lewis and Helen with their children later moved to help form a new Mennonite community in Powhatan, Virginia,where he served as a beloved pastor for 20 years and remained a faithful member throughout his retirement.

At Lewis's memorial service earlier this week, people filled the sanctuary at the Powhatan Mennonite Church for a time of worship and reflection dedicated to this good man. The fellowship that followed was an additional time for remembering and celebrating on the part of the many parishioners, friends and relatives who attended.

Jess Sager

Following the opening of Our Community Place early Monday morning, Jess Sager was one of the first homeless men who came in for warmth and friendship. Jess was tall, wore a cowboy hat and appeared to be in his 50s. Dressed in the only clothes he owned, he sat by the wood stove and talked with those nearby. Apparently he was alcoholic and seemed to be suffering from memory loss. He repeatedly asked about the location of the Open Doors shelter and how he could get a beer.

On Wednesday some of us learned Jess died that night, probably from exposure to the winter cold. Jess was found hunched over on the back steps of a local business, and when two street people tried to awaken him, he was unresponsive. One took his pulse and another went inside to dial to 911. The unconscious Jess soon died.

How the heart is moved with compassion and sadness when we experience the loss of a loved one. Each life is incomparably precious.

Two lives. Two losses.
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