The writer was describing her experience on a school bus in Montana. It had to be one of the longest routes in the country, seventy miles, often on treacherous roads, taking two hours each way. The story is basically about the driver; of many years. He left home before dawn, spent the school day waiting to return his charges to their homes, and returned to his own home and family late in the day. He managed rugged, treacherous, often snowy roads, and ungrateful, often rowdy children, with good humor; even offering special boxes of chocolates to each child as a Christmas gift. He literally had the lives of hundreds of children in his hands over the years.
Obituaries can be long or they can be short. But what can they really tell us about the import of a human life? And how often do those who serve in unpretentious ways fall off the radar when we belatedly offer our attention and respect; or not!
When he died, his obituary didn’t mention he was a custodian. His funeral was sparsely attended. I suppose he was ignored or forgotten by many because he was not fluent in English.
In my first few years out of Seminary, I served a church as an Assistant Minister. I was young, the new kid on the block. Probably because none of the more tenured clergy in town would do it, or maybe because they took their turn before I arrived, a local funeral director always called me to do the “disability” funerals. You could hardly call them funerals. The deceased had been warehoused at a state facility for the disabled and many had no known family, or been essentially disowned by family; dumped on the state. There would not be anyone at the funeral but the funeral director and I. As a deeply religious Catholic, he couldn’t bear putting anyone in the ground without the reading of appropriate scripture and prayer. All the personal information I had for my prayers was a name. He and I prayed together at a grave site several times in my three short years in that community. None of those folks had an obituary in the local paper.
The idea of the Tzadikim is such an important concept! We can not always be certain those with the most visibility and the longest obituary are the ones holding the world together. Sometimes, it can be just the opposite, the unknown; the bus drivers, the custodians, the disabled; the wood cutters and water carriers.
Only through the eyes of God will human worth be assured, and measured.