Henry's Emails

Three days after Ash Wednesday of 2015, my friend, Henry Outlaw, slipped from this world into the wildness of God's wonder. It was a cold day. The days following grew even colder as ice and rain and other wintry mush fell --and stuck-- on the flatland. 

It was the kind of weather Henry lamented.

We lamented that he was not present to lament with us.

I had the honor of delivering Henry's Homily at the memorial service and later published it here. In preparation for the service, I had read numerous emails where his friends shared stories and memories. I tucked them into a folder on my computer that contained my own correspondence with him, simply titled, "Henry Outlaw."

Once the service was over, and the ground began to thaw, I clicked a button on my screen that "hid" the folder.

I wasn’t trying to forget Henry.

I was trying to forget that he was gone.

I wanted to see his name in my inbox—not in a file.

Henry spent many hours online: reading poetry, listening to music, searching articles, watching YouTube videos.... learning. Then he spent more hours clicking the "share" button and emailing those articles to family and friends around the world.

Retirement had not halted his intellectual pursuits. It had enhanced them. 

I loved being one of his email recipients. I didn't always have time to read the whole 40-page document or listen to the entire hour-long recording he'd sent, but I did try to take in a  good, long sample of the things Henry found worthy. I tried to do the same for him. When we would discuss a specific topic over tea, I'd usually search for articles on my phone and email them to him as we sat across the table from each other. His eyes would shine at the technology we held.

I didn't want to forget that glimmer. 

So I continued to read and study and learn. I would click on article titles that I thought would intrigue Henry because I knew I would learn something new. I tried to approach my continuing education as if Henry and I had tea time planned for the next day. By the end of last year, the stack of "read" books far outnumbered the "unread." 

I studied not out of obligation but out of the same love and wonder I saw in Henry's eyes each time we talked.

I also studied because every article, piece of music, and poem that Henry and I used to discuss always led us back to God.

In searching for knowledge, Henry searched for God. 

How I loved hunting Treasure alongside him.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
— Psalm 8:3-4 (New Revised Standard Version)

A year has passed since that cold, rainy day. Today the temperature was 70 degrees with all sunshine: the kind of day that would evoke a psalm of thanksgiving from Henry. As I sat down to reflect on my friend, I remembered a folder. One search of "Outlaw" later, all of the stories were on my screen again. All of the article links. All of the grace. All of the joy. All of the love. 

The One who was mindful of Henry is the one who cares about our minds, too. He is the God who sought Henry as Henry sought Him. With my mind stayed on that great Creator, I know there will always be a grateful place in my memory for the professor who never quit learning. As much as I would love to see him every time I walk in the local coffee shop, I know he is busy. Harper Lee, one of his favorite authors, died earlier today. I smile at the thought of Henry and Harper sitting down with the kettle, tapping into the depths of Wisdom that surround them in a glorious eternity.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian