Ken and Evelyn Larter
Ken and Evelyn Larter

A Gracious Presence

Ken Larter

My wife and I met Sam shortly after our arrival from Scotland in 1988. From the beginning of our time at Tenth Presbyterian Church he was a gracious presence in our lives. Our shared birthdays in the month of June and his close collaboration with Evelyn on musical projects brought us together regularly and I came to respect and care for him. Our relationship was low key and relaxed. He was one of those individuals who is consistent in his friendships and regular in his habits. In short, a person that it would be all too easy to take for granted.

All this changed dramatically when we received word of the accident that took his life. On that day I went to see him, knowing it would be our last time together. The waiting area outside of the Intensive Care Unit held a significant number of friends from church and Philadelphia Biblical University. Their distress and grief was evident as they tried to comfort one another as best they could. When I saw Sam, he was brain dead and unresponsive. At the same time, however, there was a palpable peace and serenity both around as well as emanating from him. His body was held in a great calm, undisturbed by the trappings of modern medicine and the grief of surrounding family and friends. In some inexplicable way he comforted me. In that atmosphere it was easy to pray, and when I kissed him good-bye I knew he was going to be all right.

I was asked to pray at his Memorial Service and on that day the church was full. The tributes were heart felt and sincere and the musical presentations achingly poignant. I asked the congregation at the end of my pastoral prayer to join me in saying the Lord's Prayer, something not normally done in our services of worship. It seemed like the communal prayer was almost shouted back by those present and I realized it was not only a heart cry to God, but solidarity with Sam in the body of Christ. It was the entire group affirming their love for him and identifying with his life in Christ. Perhaps in that moment we were as close to the Lord and Sam as we can be on earth.

Sam, I trust you have been allowed to see the truth of this text as it applies to your life: "Behold, I and the children God has given me."

Sam's Chinese name means
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