Elvis and Me

I shared the stage with Elvis last weekend. It was a first for me. “Officiating: Janet Mendenhall,” the program read. So, two firsts, actually: the officiating and the pairing with Elvis. I had the honor of conducting the funeral service for a dear friend who lived out her last few years in the nursing center in my neighborhood where I am a regular visitor. She was a memorable lady: a former nurse and educator of nurses until her retirement at 80, who thereafter continued her healing practices by doling out hugs and hug coupons to anyone in her path, citing a study done by nurses in North Carolina that discovered 12 daily hugs contributed positively to health and healing. She was a great storyteller, an award-winning dancer, and a huge fan of Elvis. Pictures of Elvis hung in her room there in the nursing center, and she was buried wearing her watch with Elvis gracing its face.

But she was an even bigger fan, I think, of a local Elvis impersonator who shares his time and talent by performing monthly at local nursing centers. I am sure her love for the real Elvis prompted her love for the local Elvis, but she quickly developed a genuine friendship with the latter and his wife, and the one aspect of her funeral she had planned was that he would attend and sing a couple of her favorites one last time for her. It was the perfect touch to the service, his smooth crooning of” Love Me Tender” and “Peace in the Valley” for those gathered to bid her farewell.

I am thankful for the time I took a year or so ago, as I was hurrying to leave the nursing center after a worship service there, to answer the weak cry of a white-haired woman who was irritated and wanting a push back to her room. That short trip was the start of something lovely: a bi-weekly visit with this amazing woman, and a friendship I will always treasure.

I am thankful for the time Elvis takes monthly to bring music and joy and love to the folks in area nursing centers, and to headline the funeral service of a devoted fan and friend. Yesterday, as I was leaving the nursing center after the Sunday morning service, I stuck my head into the rooms of a couple of regulars who had not made it to the gathering, to check on them. They were grateful, and one of them said repeatedly how thankful she was for me and how sweet I was to all of them. I visit briefly a couple of times a week. It isn’t much at all. But to her it is something special. Time, even just a moment of time, says, ”You are important. You haven’t been forgotten. I care about you.”

Last week as I was walking into the downtown library I stopped and sat on the outside ledge with a friend I know from a downtown outreach and visited with him for a few minutes. I asked some questions but mostly listened for really just a few minutes. As I rose to leave, he told me thank you for taking the time to sit and listen. It was clearly a significant thing to him, but also just a moment of my time. I was humbled by his thank you, and by the realization that those minutes mattered. And my heart was convicted for the many more times I had busily passed by.

The season of advent will be upon us in the next few weeks. It is a time of preparing for the coming of the Christmas season and the Christ child. There will be much anticipation and preparation for the celebration. There will be hustle and bustle. May we remember to make room in our hearts and time in our busy lives for the presence of God who has come into the world.

I am reminded that this must also include taking the time to care for the people for whom he cares.