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Witness to Good News

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

In Memory and Honor of Natalie Jean Lloyd

The Rev'd Cameron Partridge

December 4, 2022

Good afternoon, and welcome to St. Aidan’s. Thank you for being with us today to celebrate the life of Natalie Jean Lloyd, a longtime, beloved member of this congregation who contributed so much to our life and ministry. Natalie’s life and the gifts of her presence and talents are beautifully rendered in the obituary you can read on the inside cover of your booklet. You’ll also hear more from her family and friends who will share remembrances after me. I sincerely hope you’ll share your own memories of Natalie in the reception after today’s service as well. I too would like to take a moment to lift up and give thanks for Natalie’s life, for her witness. I use this word “witness” because as I think about my experience of her, she revealed good news to me. Christians speak of the gospel, and an alternate translation of the word for gospel, euangelion, is “good news.” Natalie’s life proclaimed good news. Here is how I experienced that good news in and through Natalie: through her deep compassion, her caring, her commitment to her community, to the people in her life, her love. Jesus of Nazareth called us to love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. From the first moment I met her—and I know, long, long before – Natalie exemplified that true neighborly love. She was a beacon of good news.

After coming to St. Aidan’s in 2016, I got to know Natalie not only on Sunday mornings but also in connection with two ministries of hospitality here, the Friday Food Pantry and Diamond Diners. I would see her and Patricia Brown in the early morning Food Pantry shift on Fridays. After everyone brought the pallets of food into this space, carefully arraying it into a cornucopia of abundance, the group would gather in the Wajnert Room to enjoy baked goods and coffee. That is one of my first images of Natalie: bringing a pot of coffee in from our kitchenette, offering everyone a warm cup to thank them for their efforts. A beacon of good news. The next image that pops to my mind is of Natalie in or near the kitchen downstairs when we held Diamond Diners there before the pandemic. She would usually contribute a salad. It had a number of different ingredients, including Persian cucumbers – this detail sticks because I cut up the same kind for my oldest’s lunch. Natalie offered this salad, that coffee, with a deeply practical, concrete form of caring. She offered herself to others in and with love. You felt it. You felt that caring and love on Sunday mornings here as well, as long as she was still able to attend in person. There is a photo of Natalie on our parish website, taken in Advent of 2017, in which you can see this love beaming forth. Betty Carmack is in the photo as well (wearing perhaps the same hat she has on today) and Natalie is just behind her, smiling broadly. You feel the bonds of connection in community through each of them as you look at the photo. Natalie’s love expressed something absolutely core to this congregation as we seek to live out the good news: its joyful spirit, its expression of love, the twinkle in its eye.

During this past year I got a further glimpse into Natalie’s contribution to that twinkle through a project I worked on last spring. John Wilk and Betsy Eddy had asked me to digitize the DVD recordings of a series of original musical comedies St. Aidan’s has put on over the years as a fundraising and community building effort—the Dymphna plays, as they are known. The plays would be running on our family television during this digitizing process while I attended to other things. At one point I came into the room to see a scene in which a group of women of this community were on stage, doing a hilarious dance, a mock strip-tease for the main character in the play. I stopped and gaped at the screen and thought, this is the legendary scene I had heard about! I couldn’t stop laughing. This scene was preserved in a kind of greatest hits collection that was part of our online fundraiser last spring. The last time I saw Natalie just before I left for sabbatical in August, I showed her that collection. We watched it together on my phone and she chuckled softly. We went on to reminisce about all the ways – both serious and self-deprecating – that she contributed to the life of this community. And I thanked her. I wanted her to know how much she was and is loved and appreciated by all of you, and by me.

It felt very fitting that in that mode of remembering and giving thanks for her part in the beating heart of this place, this people, she would share with me yet more people who were so dear to her. At a dresser at the foot of her bed Natalie had an array of framed photos. She could see these beautiful souls, living and departed, as she lay in bed in her final days. After we called to mind and heart the people of St. Aidan’s, she introduced me to each of the people in those photographs. I stood at the foot of her bed and pointed to each of them, and she told me their stories. Your stories. Truly, she was accompanied by her dear ones, by you – by us in the most capacious sense of that word – in love. Several of you here today accompanied Natalie in her final moments, a ministry for which I am so grateful. In the sorrow of our loss, this journeying together that we experienced in, with, and through Natalie is such deeply good news.

In God’s house are many dwelling places, as our gospel passage proclaimed (John 14:2). In God’s heart our lives proclaim good news, bearing witness like photographs on a dresser, radiant with the love in and through which God made us. In God’s heart we dance and laugh. We offer one another coffee and baked goods from the kitchenette. There we are cutting up a Persian cucumber for a bountiful salad. There we are, greeting one another in God’s peace. In God’s heart we accompany one another, knit together into a family infinitely larger than we can imagine. What a beautiful person Natalie was, in all her resplendent humanity. What a gift she was and remains to all of us. I thank God for gift of her life, her steadfastness, her determination, her dignity, her courage, her love, her witness to deeply good news.

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