Just five months ago, I met Pastor Gleason for a run around Hampshire, and he mentioned he was seeing a doctor the next week.
“I found blood in my urine,” he said. “But I’m feeling good enough for a run.”
We began, as always, with a short prayer during which he asked for safe passage on the streets. I told him we’d take it easy but to do that wasn’t sacrificing anything for me. This man, at 59, could run 7-minute miles when he wanted to, so sticking to my 11- or 12-minute pace was literally a walk in the park.
Pastor always slowed his pace for me when we ran together once or twice a month as part of the church’s Walk R Run club. Usually, we were joined by walkers so I had him to myself for 40 minutes to chat about running, religion, the news or our families. On that run, I talked about my book, which was about to come out, and he talked about his brother, who had died recently.
After we finished and we were downing bottles of water while I stretched my calves in the parking lot, I wished him luck with the doctor and we parted.
It was our last Walk R Run club outing.
The blood in his urine turned out to be a symptom of kidney cancer. Pastor died yesterday.
I wrote about him last month here when he appeared briefly at church for a baptism. I had hoped it was a good sign, but I could see aggrieved concern in his wife’s eyes.
I will miss him for so many reasons. I enjoyed running with him and hearing about his marathon goals. He also supported my writing; he was a regular commenter on Minnesota Transplant. And he was a good pastor to me.
I will always be grateful to him for welcoming us into his church even though he knew my Beloved and I were “living in sin.” He wasn’t judgmental like that. He married my Beloved and me, and he confirmed my stepson.
He once commented here that his favorite Bible verse was John 8:12:
“I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
If Pastor had penned John’s line, it might have been “run” instead of “walk.” In any case, he was traveling in light.
When I was in fifth grade, another pastor of mine died of cancer. I remember being impressed with the church filled to capacity, and I remember singing the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” At 12, I thought it strange to sing such a joyful song at a funeral, but I now realize how appropriate an Easter message was:
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
I’ve thought of “I Know My Redeemer Lives” as I mourn Pastor, too. God always protected us runners on the roadway, and I’m confident He prepared safe passage for Pastor Gleason on his final journey.