Simultaneous Gravitas and Lightness of Heart: Excerpts from Middling

I write an occasional newsletter (quarterly when I don't forget) to friends and family about my life: music, books, work, and getting older. I'd love to send it to you if you're game. What follows is an excerpt from the spring 2019 issue, a tribute to my godmother, who had recently died.


I grew up in a tradition in which infants are baptized into the Christian faith, with parents designating two people to see to the spiritual nurture of the child into adulthood. For me, one of those two people was Sharon Kobusch. (The other was her first husband, Bob, who died twenty years ago.) I grew up a little resentful of this arrangement, as I was the only kid in my family whose godparents weren't blood relations. Sharon was a dear friend of my parents and a sensible choice, but I was a bit dense and self-involved, and so I occasionally experienced her choice as a personal affront. On the infrequent occasions when Sharon and I crossed paths, I wasn't very friendly or deferential toward her.

In the decades since, I've become a godparent to two of my nieces, and I've come to understand how complicated the role is in the modern age. Officially, godparents commit themselves to help a child learn "to practice the Gospel in personal and social life" and to do so in part by being "a bearer of Christian witness and a guardian over growth in baptismal life." We live in a time, however, when the godparent role is mainly an honorific. Unsolicited spiritual nurture these days is not generally considered especially caring, and positional authority tends to be the weakest kind of authority. And so the role of the godparent is something of an archaism.

Over time, I've come to respect Sharon more and more--her willingness to be the adult in our relationship and to let me be whoever I was becoming at any given moment. With a little critical distance, and in the process of figuring out how I would relate helpfully and meaningfully to the people I have committed to godparent, I've come to see the depth of her spiritual maturity and the grace with which she's dealt with me over the decades.

Sharon died a few months ago, shortly after Thanksgiving, after a brief period of hospice care in her home. I had the opportunity to sit with her briefly over the holiday; I was visiting my parents, and they live a short distance from Sharon as the crow flies. We had a nice chat and I was impressed with Sharon's simultaneous gravitas and lightness of heart as she was coming to terms with the nearness of her death. She gave her final witness to me and I'm grateful for it. God is good, and precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).


If you'd like to be added to the distribution for Middling, give me a shout and I'll set you up. Thanks for reading!


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