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Shinn column: Help in the valley times

It’s been 17 years since I last saw Kevin Macmurphy. We ran into each other in an Eddie Bauer store in Greensboro. I spied a tall, good-looking guy across the sales racks and thought, “That can’t be Kevin, he’s way too young.”
A moment later, he saw me and came over and swept me up into his arms in a big hug.
That’s when my then-fiance and now ex-husband stepped forward and introduced himself.
It didn’t ruin the moment.
Much.
I thought about that day when I saw Kevin on Sunday afternoon. We’d gathered at Concordia Lutheran Church to say goodbye to his dad.
The Rev. Charles Macmurphy touched many lives. He touched mine when he and his sweet wife Phyllis sent their son to camp.
Kevin and I were Lutheridge campers together all the way through junior high and high school, and on staff after that.
Oh! The stories I could tell.
Kevin was a fine young man who grew into a fine adult. I met his beautiful wife Angela and his two adorable children. Thanks to that wonderful invention called Facebook, we’ll keep in touch more than we have the past couple of decades.
You just can’t help but be nostalgic at funerals, I guess.
We sang “A Mighty Fortress” ó in four-part harmony, no less ó and I thought of Garrison Keillor and his essay on “Singing with the Lutherans.”
“By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other,” Keillor writes. “I do believe this: People, these Lutherans, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you’re dying, they’ll comfort you. If you’re lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you’re hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad!”
I didn’t happen upon any tuna salad, but I did smile as I looked around and thought about all the connections Pastor Macmurphy had made. I thought about the connections in my life.
I heard my mother say not long ago that she never regretted marrying later in life ó until her grandson came along. She and Daddy are now acutely aware of where they are in their lives ó and where Andrew is in his. Sunday afternoon’s service made me aware of where I am in my life ó and that my lifelong friends are beginning to bury their parents.To me this is an almost unimaginable but very real possibility. One day it will be reality, of course.
These thoughts made me sad. But then I remembered a decision our parents made ó the decision to send me and Carol and Jennifer and Craig and Rhodes and Kevin to that mountaintop so many years ago.
Pastor Macmurphy chose as his scripture my favorite psalm.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills,” it begins, “From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Help comes from on high, but it also comes during the valley times from my camp buddies. We’re better people today because of our shared mountaintop experience, and we still reach out to hold on to each other.

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