Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saved by A Big Jar of Mustard

We all know the parable about having faith the size of a mustard seed.  A mustard seed is really small.  So small, if you dropped one while cooking,  it might be hard to find it.  This is not a story about small things.  I'm not very good with small things.

I was once told that my problems stem from attacking a difficult situation with a sledge hammer, while others are using stilettos.  And this story is about how a really big, industrial, restaurant-size jar of mustard changed my life, and brought me back to faith and family.  I'm thinking about it today because I ran into the priest who gave me that mustard.  His name is Father Dave Reeson.

In 1986 I was in my second of three years working toward an MFA in Acting at the University of Louisville. In that theater department I was surrounded by people who practiced magic, members of a coven of witches.  I was regularly bothered by spirits appearing around me.  Homosexuals and bisexuals of every stripe were my closest friends.  I still remember Louisville as one of the darkest places on the planet.  My parents were always begging me to quit and come home.  I had a fellowship and a job, and didn't want to leave without my degree.

My brother Tim died on either the last day of November or the 1st of December, 1986.  I think it happened earlier rather than later because I had spent the two days crying for no apparent reason. After receiving the call from my Dad,  I called some of my colleagues to have them spread the word that I would be gone for a while.  They came over, Marian carrying an unopened bottle of 12 year old Pinch.  They helped me take care of the logistics of packing and travel.  And Marian gave me A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to read on the plane.  I did read it.  I don't remember it.

Safely at home, I was curiously out of sync with the rest of my family.  I wanted to turn everything into a joke.  I rode the edge of hysterical laughter to tears.  I was sitting on the couch in the family room next to my Grandma when Father Dave Reeson came in.  He had been helping my parents with funeral arrangements in  the dining room.  He asked if there was anything he could do for any of us.

You might not be familiar with the custom of bringing food to the family of the deceased.  It is a Nebraska thing.  We had been receiving and storing chicken tetrazzini and sliced hams most of the morning.  So when Fr. Dave asked his question, only one thing came to mind.  "Well Father, we've got an awful lot of ham.  We could really use some mustard."  Everyone tried to laugh.  Or maybe they just looked shocked.  I don't really know.

Fr. Dave came back a few hours later with the jar of mustard.  One Gallon.

I mention this today because I happened to run into Fr. Dave Reeson at a funeral my son was serving at our parish.  I had to re-introduce myself, but he is still in touch with much of my family.  I told him I wanted to thank him for the mustard.  He didn't remember and I burst into tears as I told the story.  I probably seemed like a raving lunatic talking about 26 year old mustard.

But that mustard  was an act of kindness, with humor, and faith that started me on my way back home to the church.

I know Jesus says we only need a mustard seed.  But I needed the whole gallon.  Thanks Fr. Dave.

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