As I mentioned in my previous post, life happened this past week. I was supposed to be in Nashville this weekend for the emergingumc gathering when I found out that a long-time member of the church in which I grew up (People's UMC) passed away this past Tuesday. To me, Hillie Cass wasn't just any ordinary member - she and her husband served as adopted grandparents. I don't know if we adopted them first or they adopted us first, but throughout my childhood she would attend our high school concerts and bake us fudge for our birthdays, even after we stopped attending that church. I felt that I should be there for her funeral service. So Ben and I left New Jersey Friday morning, picked up my sister at Williams College, went to the visiting hours, and attended the funeral on Saturday morning before heading back to New Jersey for our respective church services on Sunday.
It was she who in large part instilled in me - as she had for many of those who passed through her junior choir - a love of music. We rehearsed and sang during worship every single week. We had to memorize all the music (though if the words were tough she would write them out on a huge piece of paper and hang it on the front pew so we could read the words). I learned how to sing in parts in her choir, and thus I learned to love singing alto. She also sang in the senior choir and I could tell that she loved singing as an act of worship. Her husband Malcolm played the organist at our church - for 67 years! He was the Portland municipal organist for years and years also, and the above picture was him playing the Kotzschmar Organ for the ordination service of the 1987 Maine Annual Conference and behind him is Hillie, turning pages for him as she did for almost every worship service at Peoples that I can remember.
She also had an incredible love for the kids in her junior choir. Every year, she would also throw us a huge ice cream sundae party, where I was introduced to such flavors as chocolate chip cookie dough and to those candied cherries that are a necessary part of any sundae. But this was just how she loved anybody; she had a warm and compassionate spirit that made everyone feel welcome and right at home. She treated everybody as the child of God that person was - no matter who they were.
Hillie enjoyed life, and was always full of joy. She was also very busy! She had so many activities...each one of them about serving other people. Meals on Wheels, Jr. Choir, hosting the bean suppers (to name a few). She just didn't feel right if she wasn't doing something for others. I was so excited to discover at her funeral that Psalm 139 was her favorite Psalm (because it's mine too). As the pastor mentioned in his brief sermon, Hillie definitely lived up to that standard (well, at least the first 18 verses) - she intimately knew her God...and her God knew her inside and out as well.
I'll miss her a lot. I'm very glad that she had a chance to meet Ben; we stopped to see her and her husband on the way back from our honeymoon. I hope that someday, when I'm old (or even just older), I'll be half the kind, caring, loving, generous, full of life woman that she was.
(Obituary here, Featured obituary here)