Five years ago today, Pastor Larry Meyer succumbed to the cancer that had been killing him for nearly three years. How in the world has it already been five years? I can still remember getting the call from my friend Matt that morning, standing in the kitchen and bursting into tears, hugging Beloved and wishing, more than anything, I had been able to come see him one last time. There is a wound in this that just won't heal; five years later we are still missing him very, very much.
Anyone who's been following this blog knows the impact Larry had on my life. I don't mean to canonize the man: for one thing, he would have hated the idea himself, and for another, our shared Lutheran theology would have insisted that God makes saints in baptism. Larry had his flaws, but for most people those flaws were overwhelmed by his kindness, passion and zest for life.
After five years, I have yet to find a colleague whose judgment and advice I trust as deeply as Larry's. I could have really used his advice in The Unbloggableness. But we soldier on, don't we?
Today I lift prayers for C, his wife, his incredible children Rebekka, Rachel, Mariah and Mikah, and everyone who knew Larry and continues to mourn his death. Someday, Larry, we'll see you again. May the time between then and now be filled with laughter and joy.
I thought that perhaps it might be fitting to post five things I loved about Larry, in honor of the day. If you knew him, you could play along on Facebook at his memorial group or on your own blog - drop a link here if you wish.
1. The blue VW van. No, this isn't it, but it's pretty close. So much of who Larry was found its way into that van for me: quirky, fun, comfortable, utilitarian, and most of all, unique. He did most of the work on it himself, and that puppy ran like a charm while I was a student at LCM Nebraska. I remember riding to Synod Theological Conference with him the year I worked with him, how cool it was to sit right over the wheels and feel like you were riding the road instead of driving on it. Someday I will own a VW van like this, and every time I slide behind the wheel, hit the clutch and pop it into first, I'll think of Larry.
2. "WHATWHATWHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?" Larry's exclamation when something threw him for a loop. Said all at once like that, at the top of his formidable lungs. Usually when you heard it you were guaranteed at least ten minutes of his undivided attention, because he wanted to know just what the hell you were talking about.
3. Fireplace Position. One of Larry's flaws was his hatred of cold weather. He was an absolute sissy about winter, probably because even at his heaviest his body fat percentage remained somewhere in the low teens (the man had the metabolism of a hummingbird). On particularly cold winter days, he'd get the fire going in the fireplace at the Student Center, throw on his Nebraska jacket or the maroon blazer he kept in his office, and stand right next to the fireplace with a cup of coffee, shivering, until the fire got blazing.
4. The Forehand Smash Triple Bounce Return. Larry was a ping-pong ninja (HT: Matt Schur). His best move came when you hung a return to his forehand side. After the renovation of the Student Center basement, Larry could blast that hanger down for a point, bounce it off the wall, your side, his side, and catch it in his hand. And if that smash happened to be the seventh straight point to start a game, his grin was almost maniacal, because that meant he'd skunked you - it was game to Larry, and ping pong was the only thing in which the man was absolutely merciless.
5. Chicken Gizzards, Peel-and-eat Shrimp, Braunschweiger, and Canadian Bacon-Sauerkraut Pizza. The man was a fool for weird foods. I picked up lunch at HyVee once, and on a whim I bought some gizzards for him. When I gave them to him, I honestly thought he was going to kiss me. Every Board meeting started with pizza from Fat Pat's, and one rite of passage for every Board member was to eat a slice of the Canadian Bacon-Sauerkraut Pizza. My brother and sister-in-law hated the stuff. Me? I'll be ordering some for supper tonight, and eating it with relish.
Larry, we miss you so damn much. Tonight, after I wolf down that great pizza, and the girls have been tucked into bed, I'm going to sit out on the patio, smoke a pipe and drink a beer, and think of you. I can't wait to laugh with you again.
Grace & peace,