What's a Pastor For?
May 19, 2004
I KNEW SHE CHOPPED her own wood, but I'd never seen a ninety-pound, ninety-four-year-old blind woman swing an axe before.
Driving up unnoticed, I stopped to watch. Like a praying mantis covered in draping rags, Kathryn stooped over her chopping block. Sure-handed, she sliced kindling from a round of dry lodgepole pine with her axe. Transfixed, I sat motionless. I was no longer conscious of time; I could have been anywhere at any time in history. This was life hanging on in the most basic sense.
Kathryn burned the wood in her kitchen stove. She boiled water fetched from the ditch beside her house. She was fiercely independent. It cook three years of visiting before she'd let me chop and stack wood for her.
Once a month I bring the Lord's Supper to a few shut-ins. Willa, a retired woman from the congregation, is my intrepid companion and goad. She reminds me when it's time to go out and serve our shut-ins again. She lovingly prepares the Communion kit.
Kathryn is one of our stops. Poised erect on the edge of her chair, wearing a straw cowboy hat discarded by a child, and staring forward, Kathryn talks. Like the lawyer she might have been in another era, she gives us practiced diatribes. For years she has lived alone. For countless hours she has murmured to herself the great truths other life. She knows that Christians, especially pastors, are a long-suffering audience. Her head is thoroughly packed with opinions. She has no room for anyone else's.
"The problem with people today," begins Kathryn, "is that people do not wear enough natural fibers. Cotton and wool—that's all I ever wear. Nylon is bad for the heart and causes arthritis. People should stop wearing these new fabrics and wear cotton and wool. I daresay there'd be no need ...