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5:34 a.m. - 2002-03-07

REVEREND BOB AT YOUR SERVICE

Soooo...last night was my first official night to fulfill my role as a deacon of the church by acting as a "minister" to church members.

Think about that for a second...you are about to be comforted in your time of need ... and it's MY ASS doing the comforting.

...Somewhere Jesus is snickering.

Basically, the father of a guy at church died in Hawaii. This is a man that none of us had ever met who's been in the hospital for a long time. A little old Hawaiian man. The guy at church is well liked and does a lot for the church though. But nobody knows his Dad.

To make matters worse, his Mom fell down and broke her shoulder mere HOURS before his Dad died. So while her husband of 60 years died, she was getting her shoulder tended to. I can only imagine how bad that would suck.

When someone from the church dies or a family member of someone at church dies, there's a chain of phone calls that go out. Someone calls me, then I call seven people on my list. It's always the same seven people that I will be calling.

Of those seven people, I know two of them. Out of the other five, two of those actually come to church, but we are in different church cliques. I hang out with the younger families and they hang out with the old people that eat lunch with the grim reaper on a daily basis.

The other three people are homebound senior citizens suffering from dementia.

I called my first two people...the two I know.

Both of them had been at church earlier in the evening so both had already heard the news. I had to leave a message on their answering machines, so those weren't any big deals.

"Hi Betty. Even though I know you already know this...Steve's dad passed away last night. Here's his address...blah blah blah. His mom fell down and broke her shoulder too. As we both know, bad things usually come in threes, so let's just hope Steve's plane doesn't go down in a fiery jet crash tonight. Peace out."

The third call, somebody actually answered. It was a guy I've seen in church numerous times but never spoken to.

ME: "Alvin?"

ALVIN: "Yes?"

ME: "This is Uncle Bob from church. I was just calling to let you know that Steve's dad passed away last night."

ALVIN: "Oh."

ME: "Yeah. He's been sick for a while now."

ALVIN: "Yep."

ME: "His mother fell down and broke her shoulder hours before he died."

ALVIN: "Oh."

ME: "Yeah, it's pretty rough."

ALVIN: "Yep."

ME: "So. I'm just calling you to let you know this."

ALVIN: "The West Wing is on. Can I call you back?"

ME: "Oh, there's no need for that. That's all the news."

ALVIN: "Oh."

ME: "Hey, maybe this weekend we can introduce ourselves at church since I'll be the guy who only calls you when there's bad news."

ALVIN: "Oh, the first lady's on. Gotta go."

ME: "Peace out."

Not too tough. Not too tough at all.

I was getting the hang of this when I looked at the next name on my list.

It was Dot.

Dot is an elderly woman who lives in a nursing home. Each week during the prayer concerns at church, we get the weekly rundown on Dot. Out of the last 52 weeks, she's fallen down and broken SOMETHING at least 50 of those weeks. If it's not a wrist, it's a hip. If it's not a skull fracture, it's her spinal cord snapping in two like uncooked pasta.

I've never met Dot. I wouldn't know her if she cut in front of me in heavy traffic and drove 15 mph down the highway with me screaming and honking at her the entire time while her nose rested two inches from the steering wheel as she attempted to muster up the strength to make a left turn.

I toyed with the idea of not calling her. I thought that if I were to call this woman, there'd be no telling what she'd break if she had to answer the phone. Anything from a fingernail to her neck. We're talking about a woman with more broken bones than Evel Knievel. Having never met her, I picture a small dark rain cloud that stays over her head constantly, raining down on her as she moans to everyone.

Finally I called her. First, I had to deal with the operator of the nursing home who had to patch me through to Dot.

This was one rude wench.

OPERATOR: "May I help you?"

ME: "I need to speak to Dot."

OPERATOR: "Who is this and why are you calling so late?"

ME: (looking at my watch and seeing it was 8:15)"My name's Uncle Bob and I'm calling to tell her someone died at our church."

OPERATOR: "Does she need to know this? She's probably asleep right now."

ME: "She's on my list of people to call and spread the word to. And if you bothered to check, she probably has two or three minimum-wage-earning nurses twisting her arm right now to see if they can make her elbow pop out of her skin for kicks. Lemme talk to her now, or I'll just drive over there and deliver the message in person."

OPERATOR: "One moment please."

I waited for what seemed like an eternity before a frail sounding woman answered the phone.

DOT: "Hello?"

ME: "Hello Dot, this is Uncle Bob from church. I'm just calling to let you know that Steve's dad passed away last night."

DOT: "Oh goodness."

ME: "Yes. It's pretty bad."

DOT: "Are you calling to pray with me?"

ME: "Errrrrrr...I guess I can."

DOT: "Let's pray. You begin."

(Okay. Here's the deal. I'm a deacon in the church. But I'm about the lousiest out-loud pray-er you'll ever meet. I can pray really good in my head. But when I have to pray out loud, I end up stuttering like a father trying to explain the concept of masturbation to his children)

So now...it's time to pray with an elderly woman whom I've never met over a dead guy whom I've never met. To say that I had little compassion over this matter is an understatement. I would have been more emotionally involved in taking the trash out than I was about to say a horrifyingly bad prayer with a total stranger concerning a total stranger.

ME: "Oh Heavenly Father. We come before thee tonight not to ask for forgiveness ... but to ask for ... well...I guess we can ask for forgiveness, that'd be okay. But what we really want is ... MERCY! Yeah! We want mercy!! We ask for your mercy on Steve's dad who passed away yesterday. Steve's dad was probably a really cool guy and he's probably there with you right now, depending on how long it takes the soul to leave the carcass and get to the pearly gates. I'm sure that's quite a journey, so maybe he might be there tomorrow. Possibly the day after. I dunno. Keep your eye out for him. Frail little Hawaiian guy. Should be easy to spot. Probably has a gaudy shirt on and a lei around his neck. Anyway, Dot here wants mercy for him, and I guess I do too. But if mercy is something coveted and used sparingly, I probably want to reserve my mercy for people closer to me. My Aunt Rosie's in bad shape and I'd rather save my request for some mercy for her. Dot, on the other hand, she probably has some mercy stored up and at the rate she's going, she can probably dole out the mercy requests at an alarming rate since she seems to have one broken and mangled foot already in the grave. Please let the Rock defeat Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania. It is in your name that we pray...Amen."

DOT: "Amen."

ME: "Are you going to be okay, Dot?"

DOT: "I think I may have chipped a tooth while saying Amen, but I'll be fine."

ME: "Cool. It was nice praying with you."

DOT: "Thanks for calling."

ME: "No problem...oh! Hey! I almost forgot! Steve's mom fell and broke her shoulder hours before his dad died!"

DOT: "Oh my word!"

ME: "I know! Pretty wild, huh?"

DOT: "Will you pray with me?"

ME: "Uhhhhh....no. One prayer per customer, Dot. I've got other calls to make. Peace out."

(CLICK)

Actually, Dot was my last call, but she didn't need to know that.

Plus, I was missing the repeat of last week's "Survivor".

Sarah's boobahoobas needed my gawking.

Sooooo...I did so well last night that I want to open up my ministering to all of you.

If you have any bad news that you need to share with Diaryland, lemme know.

I can get the word out for ya. I can pray my ass off with ya.

'Cause I'm the ministering mixmaster U.B.

Can I get an Amen??

I SAID CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?

...Hallelujah, people.

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