Carried by Love

During the last ten days of Lorna Engels’ life, three dear friends accompanied her on this final journey. Theirs is a gift that is truly priceless, being the body of Christ to her on behalf of all of us who cared about her. Below, Maureen Burch reflects lovingly on Lorna’s life. The Jim Croegaert song “What is this Love?” that she weaves throughout can be heard by following the link to the Sunday service, where you can also listen to the beautiful prayer that Paige Weston recorded for this occasion.  May the music, prayer, and reflection bless you as well. -Renée

When My body lies beneath the prairie
I will not be buried,
I will be carried by this love.

Lorna lived most of her life right here, on the prairie.  She grew up with some rolling hills in Freeport, but she is through and through a prairie girl. Did she know that someday she too would be part of the dirt and ash that makes the rich Illinois soil?  Of course she did. I don’t think she focused on that part so much though, I think she focused on the love that would carry her to, and through her final journey.   
In the throes of big decision looking through my windowpane,
I wish that I could see the whole plan.
The last leaves are drifting down turning to fire as they touch the ground
when it comes to me once again,

These last few months of the pandemic, she worked day after day at her Macbook looking out her beautiful picture window.  She narrated the life of the ducks, squirrels, and random prairieland creatures that she could see – for the benefit of those of us with less picturesque views. There are these beautiful orange lilies blooming right outside I know she loved. It takes someone who can see and appreciate beauty to create beauty… and that she did.  I don’t think she could have imagined what these last few weeks would be like; what kind of decisions would have to be made without knowing the whole plan. I think if she did she probably wouldn’t have focused a whole on that part anyway, I think she would have focused on the beauty of the falling leaves coming ahead with the certainty of fall.  A new view of beauty to observe out this picture window.
What is this love? What is this love that will not let me go,
that has a hold upon my soul that I can’t break?
What is this love?  What is this love that won’t let loose of me?

What is this love? The one that held her and wouldn’t let her go?  Well, of course ultimately for her that was Jesus.  No doubt about that… of that she was certain. But while Jesus is the one who is guiding her journey now, it is all of you that Jesus used to fiercely hold her here.  And you were a fierce bunch.  Taking her to appointments, calling to check up on her, picking her favorite produce and putting it in her fridge, calling her on her birthday, and sending her tweets that delighted her and made her feel connected to the world outside that was getting harder and harder to physically navigate. And each of you that called in these last few days to tell her stories, sing her your songs and send her your love.  You very much made sure that she did not feel alone… she felt surrounded by your thoughts, words, music, and prayers.  What is that love that won’t let loose of her?  It was you. 
On occasion, a word is spoken at the very right time
a window opens and the air flows in and fills the room
At other times you can work and cry when the things to learn is how not to try
there’s a mystery, you must assume.

If you knew Lorna at all, you knew that letting go of control was no easy task.  This last week could not have been easy for her.  I do not believe she was in any physical pain, Lorna has an extremely high pain tolerance.  I have seen her break bones displaced like thrown puzzle pieces, have parts of her body debrided without anesthetic and, while not silent, would gracefully hold that pain when she had to.  Letting go of control, however, was a pain that was much, much harder for her to bear emotionally.  Lorna spent so much of life struggling with a body that simply refused to obey her in both big and small ways. She spent a lot of her life, especially in these past few years working and crying to make it do what she needed and wanted it to do.  And here at the end, the thing she needed to learn was how not to try.  Her body resisted her resistance and she simply had to acquiesce. Death is indeed a mystery.  You are breathing one moment and another… you simply don’t.

And that is how Lorna passed this morning (June 27).  She was breathing at 4:13 am and at 4:14 am, she simply never took another breath.  There was no struggle, no gasping for control, no great anticipation… just a quiet last breath.
What is this love? What is this love that will not let me go,
that has a hold upon my soul that I can’t break?
What is this love?  What is this love that won’t let loose of me?

What more could any of us possibly want, other than to love and be loved fiercely in return? Lorna was loved this way. She will always be loved this way. She has a hold upon our souls that cannot be broken by death. It is, however, time to let “loose” of her, at least physically. We can grieve her passing, but we cannot grieve her life… it was well and fully lived – with all of you.
Thank you for sharing this journey with Paige, Anne, and me.  It has been such an honor and we have treasured this time together.  Please pass this email onto any in your circles who you feel would like to know… and please send me any emails for future correspondence about a memorial service where we can celebrate (post Covid) our dear friend. Because the only thing Lorna liked better than beauty – was a good party 😉
With much love,
PS – the quotes are from a song we often sang at New Covenant written by a dear friend, Jim Croegaert.  It was one of her favorites.  Here is a link to his page where you can hear it yourself so you can feel part of her insatiable joy.  What is this Love –
Service 6/28: Sacrificing Systems
Order of Service 6/28
Bulletin 6/28

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