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Most Important Thing
by Beth Muehlhausen
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Most Important Thing

(Midnight - 4-8-01)

We jabbered and laughed the afternoon away – she wrapped gifts while I peeled potatoes and cut carrots and mushrooms and onions for the salad. “How many potatoes, Lorrie? Enough to fill a single crock pot? Hey, is this enough onion?” I should have known the answer to that one. You could never have too many onions, according to Lorrie. “But they’re pretty hot, and some people…well, some people don’t care for onions….” I offered, meekly. She shrugged. “You’re right. Yeah, that’s enough. Sometimes I forget that I’m an onion freak.” And then that awesome “ha ha ha”, the laugh only Lorrie owned.

She was so tickled with the gifts she had purchased, and showed me each one before it was wrapped in such very professional looking striped, shiny paper. “See this one? I like that scripture verse. It is PERFECT for so-and-so. And just take a look at these travel mugs…I had them engraved. See? Aren’t they the coolest?”

We rambled on about nothing, the way women do when they are alone together and comfortable in that togetherness – even though this was my very first one-on-one time with Lorrie. I shared stories of food prep at Baker’s Peak, and she chuckled her Lorrie-laugh when I told the really odd tales - about faking my way through tough assignments with an air of “bakery professionalism”. She especially liked the story about the phone caller with a thick brogue who wanted to order a German Kirschen Torten, whatever that was - and her eyes popped out in mock horror when I told her that I made up a cake recipe out of the clear blue sky, based on the rather odd, but detailed request!

We compared notes about our health, and the after effects of our cancers. She assured me that her regular check ups had continued to be fine, just fine. That she kept to the schedule, and didn’t neglect her appointments. And I told her I was doing really well, too. Only someone who has been there knows how emotionally paralyzing cancer can be. And Lorrie and I both knew, even though we trusted our futures implicitly to the Lord.

It was going to be a busy weekend, she said, and she told me how she was planning to be “Exhausted, but a happy exhausted” when it was over. Those were her exact words. After the Friday night Grace Church staff appreciation dinner, there was to be a shower on Saturday, and it seemed there was something else…but now I forget.

I prepared to leave her in the process of mashing the potatoes, surrounded by crock pots bubbling away with “chicken whatever” and pot roast, to rush back to my own agenda. She was on schedule, though, and in control – so I felt justified in going on my merry way. All that was left was for her to transport the food to Java in the Attic, cook the rice when she got there, and serve everyone plates loaded with homemade goodness.

As I prepared to leave, she said, “You know, I’m not stressing over this. I want to enjoy it, too! After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? The food could be burned or not cooked enough, and then everyone would just look at each other and say, ‘oh well, we’re together for the evening, isn’t that the most important thing?’” More chuckles, and a great big smile spread over her face. After all that planning and work, she admitted that the “wine sauced chicken” and “pot roast that makes really great gravy” wasn’t the most important thing about the appreciation dinner. Rather, her focus was on people – and her goal was that of both honoring and enjoying her spiritual leaders.

But wait, that’s all in the past. It is now two days later.

Just minutes ago the phone rang. Twice. The first time Missy warned us that something was amiss. The second time, it was Emily, saying that Lorrie had passed away. I felt a shocking jolt of disbelief pass through my body; the tingling still lingers in my hands as I type these words. In my mind’s eye, I see Lorrie still standing at the sink, leaning back, listening and smiling while I say my Friday afternoon goodbyes. That’s the way I will remember her. Standing there in a black sweater, happy, grateful, serving those she loved, her golden curls framing a joyful face.

I can hardly grasp the fact that she is now with the Lord, she who so recently scouted out the kitchen in search of a mixer to mash the potatoes. “Where is it – oh, here are the beaters, that’s a good sign, as least I have the beaters, if not the mixer (ha ha ha) – and maybe in the closet – yes, here’s the mixer, but no cord? – oh, come on, it has to be here somewhere – yep, found it.” Casually doing what she did best, without a lot of anxiety or fuss. Just carrying on.

Lorrie’s legacy is a quiet one from my perspective, not flashy or noisy. Humility motivated her service to God and others. Certainly her sweet spirit of acceptance and appreciation will live on in the hearts of those who knew her. No doubt the next time I mash potatoes I will think of Lorrie – and I’ll be tempted to toss a few extra onions in my salad for a while. But most of all, I will remember her as one who longed to give the same depth of love to others that she owned from her heavenly Father. And, I will be forever grateful for the hope that she has joined Him for eternity, and will meet with me again someday on the other side of heaven’s gates. I can’t wait to hear her laugh out loud, and exclaim, “We’re together again – isn’t that the most important thing”?

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