Monday, March 5, 2018

Witness to the life of Norman S. Chattin

Witness for Norman Chattin, delivered January 5, 2018 at the Celebration of Life Service, Westminster Canterbury, Richmond, VA

On behalf of my mother and myself, thank you all for joining us to celebrate my Daddy’s life.  Daddy always said, “Funerals are for the living,” and we are honored and comforted by your presence.  

Pray with me please: Lord let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts together today be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord my strength and my redeemer. amen

Faith Family Education
My brother David and I grew up in a LOT of houses, but in only one home. That was the one with tomatoes growing in the back yard, our pictures on the wall, and plenty of food in the kitchen.
We heard that education is a top priority. “There are 3 things no one can ever take away from you. Your faith, your family, and your education.”
As for the education part—getting a library card in our family was almost as big of a deal as getting a driver’s license.

Off to camp and beyond
When I was eight, my library card led me to a book about sleep-away summer camp. There was this kid who went to camp and made all kinds of new friends and had great adventures and wow, I was convinced that I needed to go to summer camp and began writing away for applications.
After eliminating all the camps that would only take 9-year olds I came upon Camp Kittamaqund—a Girl Scout camp in North Thumberland County that would take 8-year-olds if they had completed the third grade.
Score! I had found my summer camp. I begged and pleaded and Mom and Daddy scraped up the money and I was going away to camp for 14 days.
As we packed me up with all the required and suggested items, Daddy would look in on me and say, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to…you can always change your mind.” I’d say okay, and quickly reassure him that I REALLY wanted to go.
The day they dropped me off, Daddy said, “You can always come home, if you want to come home for any reason, you just have them call and I’ll come get you.” I promised him I would call if I didn’t want to stay.
The first day of camp we had mail delivery. I was the only camper who got mail that first day and it came from Daddy. He said he missed me and don’t forget he’d come get me anytime I wanted to come home.
Every mail call after that I got a letter from Daddy, and not only Daddy, but from mom, aunts and cousins and neighbors and church members. He gave everyone my address and I received mail and canteen money and bookmarks and funny papers and homemade cookies.
I had a blast. I never once thought about going home until it was time to go home. When my parents arrived I ran gleefully into my their arms—covered in mud and grinning from ear to ear.
I went away to some type of summer camp every year after that until I finished high school. Every time I left Daddy told me all I had to do was have them call and he’d come get me. And while I was gone, he wrote to me every day.

         Off to College
When it was time to leave for college-- Daddy once again said I could change my mind at any point and stay home ( even though I was going to “the family school” --there was always community college)—and once again told me he would come get me any time. While I was at Randolph-Macon, he wrote to me at least once a week and often more. Whenever I called home from school and he answered the phone the first thing out of his mouth was, “do you need me to come get you?”
I was fearless in the world because I knew I could always go home. There were times that I did go home, more than once, without judgement or blame.
That was the foundation of my education about faith and family.

Back at home
I didn’t always learn from books either. I learned from people.
We like to say our family didn’t bring home stray animals, we brought home stray people.
 Over the years there were
·         kids from the Methodist Children’s Home,
·         younger family members starting out or returning from their personal journeys,
·         college presidents,
·         missionaries from Africa and India,
·         itinerant Christian actors from the covenant players
·         pregnant teenagers,
·         a traveling salesman from India who worked for a Hong Kong tailoring company,
·         lonely folks who had experienced loss,
·         wives escaping unhappy homes,
·         Vietnamese war refugees,
·         ministers thinking of joining the ministry or questioning if they should say in the ministry,
·         my grandmothers would come for a week or more,
·         couples wanting to be married,
·         various district superintendents,
·         even the Bishop once,
·         and as my brother and I got older we added to the mix by bringing home
·         foreign exchange students (Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, Holland, Canada and Buffalo, NY—which could have been as far away as France all things considered),
·         roommates,
·         fraternity brothers,
·         girlfriends,
·         boyfriends,
·         and my Mom’s personal favorite—the 6 member rock band I brought home one night (turns out one of them was the grandson of a United Methodist minister that Daddy knew…)

Daddy had a way with people and it spread into all our lives. He was a good preacher, but he was a great pastoral minister. He wasn’t one of those “scripture shouters.” He found a way to relate to folks that made them feel comfortable and accepted.

No one's perfect
Of course there were things he couldn’t do, and he was usually the first to tell you about them—
As he would say, he could not carry a tune in a bucket. That didn’t stop him from cheerfully singing along on family drives or in church (without a mike). He liked to say he knew all the words to two songs, “Pine Tree” and “Amen.” Those lyrics, in case you hadn’t guessed, were exactly the same as the title of the songs.
He couldn’t read a map and had no sense of direction.
He wasn’t an athlete, the only game he ever taught us was roll-a-bat which is a little like baseball but requires a lot less skill.
He wasn’t a carpenter or a mechanic.
And—he could not tell a joke. He loved jokes and always wanted to hear them but when he would start telling one he’d begin laughing so much that he’d miss the punchline.

Many Gifts
But he COULD get things done. . There was always an “ease” with the way Daddy did things.
He could have you volunteering for a task and halfway finished before you realized you were doing it. And by the time you did finish, you felt better about yourself than you ever imagined.
He could get in and out of places when others could not—Back when hospitals had super strict visiting hours my Daddy could get in and out any time.
Stores or restaurants that had closed would somehow let him in anyway.
He could visit anyone in jail and, on occasion could get an inmate released in time for Christmas with his family.
He found scholarships for students, spots in nursing homes, jobs for executives or waitresses and he always knew where to get the best hot dog in town.
Remember that Vietnamese refugee family I mentioned? After our church had sponsored the family and helped get them settled in a home Daddy worked unceasingly to find one of their sons who was not with his parents when Hanoi fell. He found him, got him out of a camp in California and brought him to Virginia. The joy on their faces when they were reunited was indescribable.
Daddy loved to garden. Every home he ever lived in had flowers in the front yard and tomato plants in the back. He even grew flowers and tomatoes right here at Westminster in the resident gardens.
Yes, there were things he couldn’t do, but he was magnificent with what he could do. 

Faith and family and education.
He had priorities, he lived those priorities, and he did with ease, with joy, and with grace.

I'll keep going
I know there is a heaven,. I know my Daddy is there.

I don’t know a lot about it. I don't exactly know how to get there.

I am certain however, that if I find myself struggling, Daddy will come get me.

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