Grief and Gratitude

For the past 23 years of my life, Rev. Dr. Doyle Sager has been a constant -the last 21 as pastor, coworker, mentor, and friend. How easy it is to take for granted “the constants” in life. Health, time, people – all precious gifts often overlooked as everyday guarantees until absence reveals their true worth.

Doyle died on January 22 from lung cancer. More importantly, he lived 69 Kingdom-building, wisdom-sharing, coffee-drinking, knowledge-seeking, baseball-cheering, people-loving, God-serving years.

I will miss hearing his keys jingle in the lock of the door between our offices. I will miss seeing him walk by my office, empty coffee cup in hand on his way to fill up again. I will miss him buzzing my phone because of yet another technology burr in his saddle. I will miss seeing him sit a little taller on the front row in worship when something didn’t go quite as planned.

I will miss his smile and laugh and his gentle hand slap on the table when something was really funny. I will miss his wisdom as we wrestled with church and theological issues. I will miss his horrible penmanship on treasured notes of encouragement. I will miss hearing him say how proud he was of me. I will miss watching him kneel by a beloved elder church member to be fully present. I will miss the way his eyes lit up when he talked about our FBC children and his often-corresponding word of choice, softly uttered with a bit of a head nod, “precious.”

I will simply and profoundly miss him.

I am exceptionally blessed with an extraordinary Dad who has taught and continues to mentor me in vocational ministry. That alone is more than most young pastors have and far more than I could ask or deserve. How indebted I am for God’s kindness in also providing Doyle Sager as my ministry mentor. (Maybe God knew I was so challenged it would take two extraordinary men to help me out!) So much of who I am today, the very best parts of me, I owe to my parents and Doyle.

My grief, our grief is substantial now. In time, God’s grace will lift the heaviness of grief from our hearts and tenderly transform it into further gratitude. That is God’s miracle – to toil our sorrow, plant hope irrigated with our tears, and harvest gratitude in its place. May this redeemed gratitude nurture us for years to come and be the abundance we joyfully share with others … just as Doyle did with us.

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