We had Dianne Hodo’s funeral today. Joe moderated the service and challenged us all that it was to be a time of celebration and not mourning. He sang with the Churchmen an opening song (“Well Done My Child”) and a closing song (“Long and Winding Road”). There were tributes by James Francis (PTS SGA President), Doug Slocumb, Cheryl and myself, Steve Land, Wendell Smith, Kelvin Page, and Dianne’s sister, Rev. Sandra Murphree. The Westmore COG Sanctuary Choir gave a glorious rendition of “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul.” It was a time of worship, comfort, and honor appropriate to Dianne’s life but insufficient to communicate the depth and breadth of her influence.
Last week I wrote about her faithfulness to “occupy.” She was a model of living life to the fullest. During this week I have found myself reflecting on her place in my life. Each day as I entered the school I felt her absence and I grieved, frankly more than I anticipated. And so I thought about the last few years and our friendship.
Dianne began her studies at the Seminary as I was becoming highly involved directing our programs for reaffirmation of accreditation. As Dr. Slocumb’s Graduate Assistant, her work station was directly outside of my office. Our responsibilities intersected little so that we had almost no conversations about work. We talked about life; we were friends.
Decades ago she came to me on one occasion as her pastor. An issue had arisen in which she felt she needed spiritual direction. But at the Seminary, we were colleagues. We never had long conversations. Dianne was too focused on work and I was too overloaded for much small talk. There were those times when I came out of the office to get a cup of coffee or make a cup of tea when what I needed was a break. Dianne often sensed my need for small talk to clear my head and she obliged.
Keep in mind, she was not given to small talk. She was focused. She had the gift of being hard of hearing when she wanted to be. A party could be going on around her and she could stay buried in the file on which she was working, oblivious to her surroundings.
Yet, we had many conversations about a host of subjects. As you would expect, we talked about our children and other family members. She loved and was proud of Shelley and Jennifer. She was also proud of her sister, Sandra. I can’t say that she told me a lot about Joe, but neither can I imagine her speaking more than a couple of sentences without invoking his name: “Joe and I,” “one time Joe and I.” You get the picture. If ever two people became one, Joe and Dianne did and set the pattern for others to follow.
Always, she would humor me and listen to my personal stories, at least until one of our phones rang or someone else interrupted with a work related issue. In these brief talks we discovered how much we had in common. We share a love for God and a Wesleyan-Pentecostal view of life. We are both married to persons given to travel who could charm the Pope out of his rings (Mine actually did talk a Cardinal into letting her try on his ring). We are both parents of two intelligent, gifted, sensitive daughters. We both had fathers who believed work formed character.
If fact, we both had the experience of working beside our fathers cutting fence posts to be treated with creosote and then using those same posts to stretch fence. There aren’t a lot of people in Cleveland, Tennessee who can say that.
In all of her struggle with cancer I never heard her ask “why?” I certainly never felt any sense of envy of those with good health and long lives. I did hear a hint of envy when she heard me mention my tractor. She said she would love to spend a day working with one. I regret I didn’t arrange for that.
Sometimes I initiated the conversation and sometimes she did. She read my blog which often became the starting point. It seems we share political philosophies, only she more-so. Perhaps, politics is one of our strongest points of shared interest. You see, I am a self-confessed conservative Republican. Many of my close friends and colleagues are somewhere left of George McGovern (if you’re under forty, google him). I feel my calling in life is to hold on tight to the rope that binds us and lean to the right. Who knows where I’ll end up if the rope ever breaks. Dianne was a pleasant corrective; I often found myself leaning slightly to the left when we talked politics.
Every conversation was seasoned with the Lord. I have somewhere written that Spirit-filled people share a worldview that relates all things to God. We see God at work in, with, by, and through all things. If such a disposition is indeed evidence of being Spirit-filled, Dianne could be tried and convicted in any court in the land.
Having reflected on all of this I came to realize Dianne was truly my sister. We were friends who were comfortable with each other. (Then again she seemed comfortable with everyone.) We had so many experiences and opinions in common. Without my even realizing it, she became a rock to lean on, that person who shared the journey with confidence, dignity, hope and peace. In the face of death, she gave confidence to others. She will always be family for Cheryl and me, and an icon into the face of God.
November 06, 2010