For many years we attended First Lutheran Church. We definitely met people there who we loved and enjoyed spending time with. I probably didn’t connect as well as I could have with many during that time. I was one of those church members with several small children in tow. That experience can be its own test of fortitude. I had a child every other year from 2004 to 2010. That doesn’t even include the ones before and after that time period!
By nature, I’m an introvert. I get my energy from being alone. I was working full time in a job that required copious amounts of “peopling” all week. By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was pretty tired. Wrangling babies, facilitating the nursery/toddlers during Sunday school and taking noisy babies in and out during church all contributed to me missing out on many opportunities for good fellowship.
One year, we attended a Christmas gathering at a fellow church member’s house. I had settled on bringing Pumpkin Fudge. My friend Megan had gotten me hooked on it years before. It was one of my very favorite holiday treats. I packaged up a good sized pan of fudge and brought it to the party.
As everyone mingled and grazed through the wide array of food available, one guy kept going back to the fudge. I was keeping an eye on it, the way you do when you’re curious if people like what you brought. Mr. Paul Cheek made his way back to the fudge at least four times. On the last time over there, he caught my eye. “You made this?” he asked me. “Yes, I did!” I told him. “What’s in it?” he asked. I could tell he was genuinely interested. I gave him the specs of the recipe and we talked for quite some time about the fudge and other foods we liked.
The fudge opened the door to one of my most random, and beloved friendships at First. Paul always made a point to talk to me, whether it was during coffee hour between Sunday School and Church, or just as we were passing in the hallway. If we were at a loss for words, we just talked about the pumpkin fudge again. Sometimes it was just a smile and a head nod if I was being pulled on by one of my kiddos or one of his grandkids was tugging him away.
As the years went on, I continued to make pumpkin fudge whenever it was applicable for a church function. I made sure Paul knew I had brought some. The last few times I made it when we were members there, I made an extra container with some just for him. I think he was one of the few people I knew outside of myself and my friend Megan who could probably have just eaten an entire pan of it by ourselves.
Two days ago, Mr. Paul went to be with the Lord. I know he no longer suffers, but the world is just a little bit less kind without him in it. There will never be a time that I have pumpkin fudge and do not think of him.