Neighbor, Diane and Sister #4, Summer 1958
Many of you know that Diane, my Sister #3, lived with ALS for ten years before her death in 2006. I’ve already completed a series of Dear Diane letters as part of this blog. I did it because I was starving for sisterly conversation. The kind not allowed in our house with four daughters and no brothers.
I’ve missed that interaction with Diane, and have wondered how to fill the void. I believe her voice is important. She has a strong and somewhat different angle on Telling the Truth.
Near the end of her life, Diane gave me access to most of her writing. I haven’t begun to uncover all the gems—and may never be able to do that.
However, along with her writing, she gave me a set of cassette tapes. You know. The old-fashioned kind.
The tapes were recorded at her church every Sunday. On several Sundays, when the pastor was away, Diane was the minister for the day. That meant she welcomed people, gave the pastoral prayer, and, most fun for her, gave the children’s sermon. At her church they called it ‘Down Front Time.’
The church is large and well-attended. Their sanctuary has a semi-circular seating area. The large, curving platform holds the choir, organ and piano, and seating for ministers and the pastor, with plenty of room to spare. Steps curve from one end of the platform to the other.
When children are invited to Down Front Time, they come and sit with the pastor or minister on the platform steps. Whoever leads Down Front Time always has a bag. The children know there’s a mysterious object in the bag–the key to the topic for the day. There’s also a bit of friendly banter, sometimes for the benefit of adult children in the congregation.
I transcribed most of Diane’s Down Front Times a few years ago, but haven’t been sure how I might feature them. I’ve decided to make use of them via excerpts that get to the heart of each children’s sermon. Possibly one a week as I did with her Word for the Ones I Love.
Diane loved children and they loved her. Her quirky sense of humor and down-to-earth approach to life pulled them right in, along with all the adults listening in.
From this distance, what catches my attention most is that Diane is talking to herself, not just to the children. She’s doing her own spiritual formation work in front of them—with the simplest or strangest of objects. Yet the content isn’t simple or strange. It’s the content of life—all the things that matter most, reframed and restated for young children.
I want to be a young child listening to her along with you. So look for this soon. I’m already working on the first of her Down Front Times.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 July 2015
Photo credit: JERenich, Summer 1958, Savannah, GA