by Pastor Jeff
On Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, I co-officiated the funeral service of our beloved office manager, Patty Trygar, at Bethany United Methodist church, in Highland Park, IL. I dedicate this issue of the Messenger to Patty and the ministry she provided to us so well and so lovingly for the past eight years. Some of you were not able to attend her funeral service, so I reprint my remarks here for your edification. I hope all of you will add your own insights and comments in testimony to her and her service to the church of Christ in the days ahead.
The first thing I want to say is that I speak today not just for myself, but for all the voices of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church who knew and cherished Patty as a person and as a servant of Christ’s church. Their voices join mine in thanksgiving for her today.
Eight years ago, October 7th, 2002, Patty Trygar was hired at St. Mark’s as our church secretary. I’ll not forget the first time I spoke to her. I called her at her home, Mike answered the phone and asked that I wait a moment. It seems Patty was outside working in the yard; a favorite place of hers.
As we spoke and she told me of her past work experience, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world she would want this job. I knew that her responsibilities at the church would not come close to challenging her executive and administrative abilities. She was, in a word, embarrassingly over-qualified.
I tried to be as clear as I could about what this would would entail and how much it paid. As is the inclination of most small congregations with small budgets but big hearts, I immediately changed the job title from “church secretary” to “office manager”. It sounded more important; it wouldn’t pay any more, of course, but somehow it seemed more befitting of the work I knew she would do.
As all of you know, she more than lived up to that title. Within a very short period of time Patty was telling me what to do…in a very good and respectful way! She explained to me what her work was and what my work should be. And I was delighted. No longer was I taking phone calls from sales people. Patty did that. No longer was I making the coffee, Patty handled that (voluntarily!). No longer was I responsible for inventorying office supplies or managing the use of the building; Patty handled that. In fact, outside of actual pastoral duties, Patty administered everything with grace and dignity and her own particular charm.
You should also know that she wasn’t always a good influence. On beautiful spring/summer days, I would walk into the office and Patty would say to me, “Looks like a great day for golf, Pastor!” I would just laugh. And that was her nature. She loved to make people happy. Making others happy in fact gave her the greatest pleasure and satisfaction in life. As time went by and I observed her reaching out to so many other people, I began to understand why she had taken the church secretary job. She wanted to make people happy here. You see, Patty had been very successful in the corporate world, and now she wanted to “succeed” in a different way. She now wanted to do something “significant”. Some thing whose value wouldn’t be measured in salaries or bonuses, but in the joy her work would bring to others. And I can tell you, she was very successful and her work paid big dividends to all who benefited from it.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on creation at a Lutheran retreat center in Phoenix, Arizona. That seminar was in January. The idea of being able to go was a big deal for me. I had never gone to such an exotic place “on business” before, and Patty knew it. It had been years since I have even flown, and I never had been to a warm place in the middle of Winter before.
As I deliberated where I should/could go, Patty started checking flights and the best way to get there. She said, “And you should take a limo, too!” “A limo?” “I had never been in a limo in my life. Once she found that out, there was no stopping her. She knew of this limo company and that limo company and started making phone calls. She never had so much fun…and neither did I!
Patty made me feel like my work mattered…where it did or not. And that made me a much better person. She did that for everyone she came into contact with. She intuitively recognized the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the people around her, and did whatever she could to keep those hopes alive. Whether that was by baking dozens of cookies for distribution at Christmas, by hosting coffee hours and soup dinners here at church (Bethany UMC), or in the many ways (God only knows) she uplifted others. Every one of us here knows what I am talking about. Every one of us have a similar story to tell and I hope you tell it.
She loved to provide for someone else’s needs. And in the past eight years she did more to provide for others than most of us do in a life time. I say that not to our shame, but as a way of encouraging each of us to do more for others with whatever God has given us.
Our sorrow in releasing Patty into her Lord’s care today is deep and personally profound; that’s because our sorrow is proportional to the joy she gave us. That sorrow, however, is overshadowed by the hope we share with Patty for a resurrection unto eternal life.
It in in that uplifting hope that we gather here today. We will not place a period behind her life’s story, but only a comma that represents a slight pause in her life, designated for some well deserved rest, until that glorious day when Christ returns and we join here in the life to come.
In 2 Corinthians 9:11, St. Paul says, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Patty was made rich by her generosity to others, and because we have so richly been blessed by her, the result is that we gather here, not to mourn her loss, but to give thanks…for her…for her work…for her kindness…for her love…for her generosity…and for the God who will raise her unto life eternal in a world she also loved.
Rather than mourn the absence of the flame, we celebrate how brightly her life Spirit burned.
It is in that Spirit that we now release our beloved sister into the hands of Almighty God in thanksgiving for the richness of life she brought us.
“Well done thou good and faithful servant.”