The Receiving Line
One by one they took my hand.
“I’m Sally, Stewart’s sister,” I would say. Then they would tell me their name and how they knew Stewart.
From the food bank. “I volunteered with Stewart at the food bank. We could always count on him.”
From Habitat for Humanity. “Stewart took the minutes for our meetings. They were always precise and thorough.”
From the church in Tarentum. “Stewart had been our pastor.”
From the Presbytery. “Stewart served on a committee with me.”
From his apartment complex. “Stewart sat in the gazebo with us every night and we talked.”
From a coffee shop that had become his family. “We didn’t even know he was a pastor for the longest time.”
One man told me, “Stewart changed my life.”
A man named Buster stood in front of me, humble, awkward. He was as tongue-tied as I felt all day, his eyes watery as they looked at mine. “Stewart was a good man,” he finally said.
“Thank you,” I said, over and over and over.
I wished I had more words.
No, I wished they had more words. I loved hearing about the lives he had touched.
“Stewart drove me to the doctor.”
“Stewart drove me to the store.”
“Stewart loved that skate park.”
The two hour receiving line became almost unbearable. All these people. All these names. All these words — good words — but I couldn’t hear any more..
After the service, while people were still milling around and chatting, I sat by myself a short distance away. Maybe I seemed uncaring. I only knew that I was exhausted. Mary came to sit beside me and I hugged her.
This may sound crazy, but instead of a two hour receiving line, I wished for a two month one, where I could sit, one day at a time, with the people, share a cup of coffee with them, and really hear their story.
I have so many questions for them.
Did Stewart laugh a lot? I always liked his laugh.
Did Stewart cook for you? He was a pretty good cook.
Tell me everything you can about Stewart and his life here. Please.
I’m so hungry for more.