10 days ago, Cora died. Today, her memorial was held at Hwy 36 Church of Christ.
10 years ago, Cora lived. Well, that was when our paths first crossed. It was at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene, Texas that I saw her. A friend of mine had been preaching at Oplin Church of Christ and after I had visited once, her husband Chuck (whom I treasure as a mentor in faith and friendship) had lunch with us at Subway and then invited Bryan and I to go visit Cora. I still to this day marvel at how Chuck and Cora invited me as a stranger into their room, in a strange place that is effective in making you feel even more disconnected. Yet she welcomed me with a smile, sainted of course with the typical West Texan humility of not being decent enough or apologizing for not looking at her best. She welcomed me.
Welcome indeed. 4 years later I left that church as I began life in Houston as a hospital chaplain, but during my 4 years there I attended that church faithfully. She welcomed me and in all of our bible classes and sermons always responded with welcome. Regardless of her differences of opinion, she wanted to welcome the stranger, the immigrant, the poor, the orphans, the new neighbors, the Muslims, the people who didn’t look like her, the Republicans and Democrats alike, the crabby and crusty and nice and neat. She loved to welcome with her customary thoughtfulness and West Texan hospitality. She loved to welcome theological conversation and storytelling about drawing closer to God. That’s what Cora really did in her welcoming spirit. In welcoming all, she welcomed God.
She sought God in all different ways and drew life from her gardening, farming, animals, chickens, dogs, and her husband Chuck. She loved to laugh. She was earthy and had a refreshingly sweet but spot on honesty. I always remember her way of talking about Scripture in a way of wonder and curiosity and openness, and the way in which she welcomed discussion that reflected the love and uniqueness of that little country church.
Yes, she welcomed, and she loved. She loved Chuck so much, and welcomed him into her life through thick and thin and with all her bruises in life. (He will be in my prayers for his journey of grief) She loved God more though. With welcome of all that could mean too. Her welcome always reflected love.
I will remember Cora, for the way she welcomed Oplin, Chuck, God, and many students at Oplin along the way. She welcomed us with open arms and the enduring and gentle love of a God who says ‘Come!’
I still remember her invite to me into the hospital. “Come! Come in! Welcome!”
You will be remembered Cora from many here in gratitude and love. Thanks for your love. May you hear the words from God now, “Come! Come in! Welcome!”