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Andy the Janitor Remembers

November 12, 2012

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“Remember” is one of my favorite English words.  It is a much bigger word than its diminutive synonyms like “recall” or “recollect.”  For me, remember is best thought of as the antonym of “dismember.”  To dismember is to tear apart; to remember is to put back together.  Andy was the custodian at Christ Church during my first few years here.  By the time I came along he was a very old man with poor eyesight and limited energy but Andy had a quality I really admire in a person; he liked me.  As the church grew in the very early 2000’s, his workload became overwhelming and he retired to care for his failing wife before finally moving to the east coast with his children.  On occasion, Andy and I would go out for lunch.  He liked to go for fried fish at the Dandy Inn.  He always ordered a beer and I ordered a Coke (this was in my pre-Diet Coke days).  He reminded me each time that the beer was okay; he was a Lutheran.  I would eat and Andy would talk.  Andy told me about World War II, his life as a Sea Bee, the things he had done, the pain in his life and the places he had been.  He said he dared not speak of such things at home and by my reckoning, had about sixty years of conversation pent up inside him.  As he spoke, he would sometimes be overcome by emotion and stop talking, eat for a moment with tears in his eyes, take a drink and then resume.  On our final lunch before he retired, I noted two rough looking men sitting in the next booth who were listening to every word Andy said as he spoke about his service in the Pacific during WW II.  We were getting ready to leave when one of the men got out of his seat and blocked Andy’ path to the door.  I was frankly, unsure of his intentions.  He said, “Sir, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying.  I just wanted to shake your hand and say thank you for what you did for us over there.”  Andy was literally dazed.  As if called to attention, Andy stood up straight and tall and extended a trembling hand.  Tears began to roll down both of our cheeks as he grasped the stranger’s hand.  He had just been remembered.  

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of the soon to be released book, “Exactly As I Remember It.”

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