Moving With: Stan Friedman Says Goodbye

Andrew Larsen Photography

I was several hours into driving on Interstate 80 from Chicago to a family gathering in Kansas when I realized I was occasionally reaching over and putting my hand on the passenger seat. It was my first road trip since my wife, Marcia, had died of pancreatic cancer a year before on July 20, 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a moment tinged with sadness, another reminder that she was gone. But I also felt something else. Life was calling.

I am leaving my job as a writer for the Covenant Companion, a role I have held for nearly 17 years, which has been wonderful for the long season and now blends into another. My last day is September 10. I will begin my new role as a chaplain resident at NCH Health System in Naples, Florida, on October 4.

It has been an honor and a great privilege to tell Covenant stories. I have always tried to honor them. This job has given me the opportunity to combine my passions and my experience as a newspaper reporter and pastor of a local congregation.

I have been able to go places and write about experiences I never imagined would be part of my life. I have seen first-hand the work of God through Covenanters in South Sudanese refugee camps, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Palestinian territories, and Unalakleet, Alaska, on the Bering Sea. I’ve covered every Annual Meeting, nearly every Midwinter conference, two CHICs, and even two Women Ministry Triennials.

I’ve also had the chance to tell local stories of ministry. Churches with gardens that are helping to feed the hungry; the town of Sloan, Iowa, whose residents came together to build a house for a family whose teenager became paralyzed in an accident; the congregation who ran in running gear behind a hearse during the funeral for one of their members who had run numerous marathons and was known for sharing his love of God.

I have written about how the large issues of our day are impacting and being influenced by Covenanters—race, immigration, refugees, war, and hunger. People protesting, welcoming, teaching, listening, and giving.

I also have written probably 98 percent of the obituaries for pastors, missionaries, and their spouses that have appeared on the Companion website since 2005. It almost always is a terrifying experience to tell an abbreviated version of someone’s entire life. But it also became a satisfying one, especially as I read the comments about people who might not have been well-known or spoken on conference stages or written best-selling books. Commenters tell how the often-unnoticed ministry of a person has helped transform so many lives through simple acts of hospitality, kindness, compassion, and day-to-day faithfulness—by sharing the love of God in word and deed.

That has been a gift to me.

I am most grateful for my colleagues who have aided—and some might say abetted—the stories I’ve told. It is my byline on the story, but each one has been edited by someone, most likely by Don Meyer, Ed Gilbreath, Jane Swanson-Nystrom, Cathy Norman Peterson, or Linda Sladkey. Especially in the magazine, they have been made to look good by designers such as Dave Westerfield, Steve Velez Luce, and Kristi Schild.

Our work has always been done out of love for one another and the church. We have sought to help each other be better. That sometimes has meant some—as one of the editors recently said—“discussions” among people passionate about the work we do. But we have made each other better at our craft and as people. I like to think we have been good for the Covenant.

All of my colleagues have walked with me during my worst days, the ones that started on April 30, 2020, when Marcia learned over the phone from her doctor that she was dying. Their patience, kindness, and tenderness have helped my healing. Many of them had worked with her and experienced her desire to serve behind the scenes so that others could succeed.

Of all the opportunities I experienced in this work, the greatest was meeting Marcia. She was in her mid-50s when she came to Chicago in 2006, having never lived or even really traveled much beyond Jamestown, New York. (I got to take her to her first stage play—“A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theater, which she watched with the wonder of a 10-year-old.)

She got rid of almost everything she owned and packed the rest in her 2003 leased, all-standard Toyota Matrix to start a new chapter of her life in this huge city, where she moved into a fourth-floor walkup efficiency apartment that she delighted in.

On the evening she received the news that she was dying, we sat on the couch in our house, looked out at the sunset, and held each other close. Through tears, we told each other how we had made something wonderful. She also began to make some plans for my life—she was always a planner. As always, she most wanted me to be happy and to live fully into my calling, wherever it might take me.

There were times in this grief journey when I was stuck and feeling guilty about the idea of a future. But in the book “Alphabet of Grief,” the author, a chaplain, writes:

“Perhaps the term ‘moving on’ could be replaced with the concept of ‘living on.’ For that is what we are called to do: to live on, despite the pain of our losses. Moving on implies that we are leaving something behind, that we have closed a chapter, like closing and locking a house. But we don’t leave our loved ones in the rearview mirror. We don’t leave them in the ground or scattered at sea—we take them with us. We take the times we have shared and the love we still feel into whatever future awaits us. We don’t move on; we move with.”

Those words came to mind as I was driving that day on Interstate 80. I already had begun to sense the desire to return to more one-on-one ministry. Suddenly that desire was moving to the forefront. Life and a new future were calling.

So at some point later this month, I will have divested myself of almost everything I own and packed much of what is left in my car. I will be driving down Interstate 75, reaching out and putting my hand on the passenger seat. I will smile, knowing she is going with me.

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48 Comments

  1. Stan:

    You’ve been a faithful and amazing storyteller and I have been blessed to know you and to serve with you. Blessings friend on your new journey.

  2. Stan: We go waaaay back, on winding paths for both of us, crossing now and again over a long stretch of territory (not least the Bruce concert. Thanks for that.) Your faithfulness and resilience remain an inspiration. Till next time our paths cross: You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright.

  3. Stan, I didn’t know you well, but will never forget your Hinsdale Sunday morning Springsteen class and learning about the spiritual themes in his lyrics. I immediately thought of Bobby Jean, but had to include these lyrics from Thunder Road, your favorite if I remember….may God bless your next chapter as you journey down the road. Peace.

    With a chance to make it good somehow
    Hey what else can we do now?

    Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
    Well the night’s busting open
    These two lanes will take us anywhere
    We got one last chance to make it real
    To trade in these wings on some wheels
    Climb in back, heaven’s waiting down on the tracks

  4. Stan, though we’ve never met, I feel like you are a friend from all the times I’ve read your good work! Thanks for telling the stories so well and for this post. You clearly draw from a deep well and bear sweet witness to the grace and faithful presence of God no matter our circumstances. Rich blessings in your new assignment! Godspeed.

  5. Dear Stan, it sure has been a long journey since those days in that awful little office in the basement at 5101! I am so glad for the many conversations we had over the years about whatever was on our minds. I miss working with you, and will greatly miss your writing, but am so glad for this new role for you. It sounds like a perfect fit. Be blessed.
    Chris

  6. Thank you Stan for spending time at MCE and helping our missionaries communicate their experiences. I met Marcia during her time in Jamestown, when she and Bev Freeman helped connect me with churches to host missionaries visiting the East Coast. Then what a joy when Marcia began work at Covenant Offices! I grieved with you at her Homegoing, and pray the Lord’s blessng – His protection, provision and presence on the next portion of your journey~

  7. Stan, beautifully written words honoring your life and Marcia’s. Thank you for your service, and welcome to chaplaincy!

  8. Stan, you have had such a great impact on the Covenant. Solid reporting, such a wide range of topics. Truly, this is only a handful of people in the whole country who knows so much about us, and have effected the entire Covenant church body. THANK YOU for your years of hard work, you are a quality individual. May God bless you next steps of adventure.

  9. Stan, Thank you for sharing your yourself and your writing talents with the Covenant family and the church body! God bless you in your new ministry!!

  10. Thank you for your good work, Stan. I’m excited for you as you step into the deep work of chaplaincy. Being the storyteller you are, may you find joy and richness in listening to the sacred stories of others.

  11. Stan,
    I have looked forward to your stories in each publication and so appreciate how you have shared the life stories of pastors and their spouses who have departed. The integrity with which you write is difficult to find in today’s media. I will miss seeing your byline and the messages that follow.
    Judy

  12. Thank you Stan for sharing your powerful testimony of living on in the midst of tremendous loss. Many in our Covenant family needed to hear this! You are a blessing to our church.

  13. Stan, I enjoyed getting to know you and Marcia at Hinsdale, then seeing you both occasionally at ECC. You were a wonderful couple and I’m so sorry for your loss. I also enjoy reading your thoughtful stories in the Companion and online. You are very gifted and will be a blessing to those to whom you minister in Naples. May you move with beauty for ashes.

  14. Thank you, Stan, for the blessing you have been to us over the years. You have kept us “in touch” and we’ve appreciated your gift of communication in so many circumstances. God’s peace and blessing be upon you as you move into the next chapter of His plan for you.

  15. Go well, Stan. May you be the witness of and actor within many more wonderful stories. Go CPE!

    José La Luz

  16. As a retired “medical journalist“I have very much appreciated your fine reporting and superb writing. Best wishes for your new journey. Dr. Tim Johnson.

  17. Stan, what a beautifully written “goodbye”. Rich blessings are being prayed for you as you “move with” into your new calling. Thank you for everything ~ your sharing, your writing, your contributions to the Covenant Church and to God’s Kingdom ~ and for keeping it up. Godspeed. Barbara Holman

    1. Stan,
      We will really miss you brother. I can’t forget when you wrote about my me and my work in Sudan Covenant Church.
      I will remember you in my heart. I am sad to see you leaving this wonderful story telling but God always has a plan for your and I know you save many souls using this talent.

  18. Thank you for your devotion and commitment to look and ask questions, and listen long and well to others’ stories. You have enriched our lives with your gift of ‘seeing beyond seeing.’ God bless you as you ‘live on’ and continue to bless others. I will miss reading your byline.

  19. Thank you, Stan for sharing your story. As you relocate to Florida may God’s peace rule in your heart and may you bloom with all the beauty and fragrance of Jesus Christ wherever you serve.

  20. Stan: Thank you for serving us, the blessing you’ve been to us. Your care and concern have shown through each story you’ve written. God bless you on the next chapter of your “living on.”

  21. There are no adequate words to describe my gratitude for your faithfulness over so many years, Stan. I bless you in the name of Jesus as you travel south, and as you pat that seat. This is a beautiful reflection, indicative of so much goodness — in you, in her, and in your lovely relationship. Godspeed, my friend.

  22. Stan – You will be greatly missed (although I won’t miss your fondness for Lionel Richie’s music). It has been my honor and privilege to work with you and call you my friend. You have helped me a great deal in better understanding Covenant ethos and Bruce Springsteen. I pray that God bless you and your future endeavors.

  23. You have guided and provided for our Companion for a long time, Stan, and it has remained an outstanding publication. I’m so sad to learn of Marcia’s passing as I enjoyed working with her during the Women Ministries days, but your plan is a rich one. God bless you in all your future endeavors. Thank you for enriching our lives over the past 17 years!

  24. Stan, I so enjoyed having you and Marcia at Hinsdale Covenant and loved singing with Marcia in the choir. I was so sorry to hear about your loss of Marcia last year. I hope you find joy in your new job living in Naples. Bob and I love visiting that area. Thank you for your comment of moving with – not on. That is very comforting. Many blessings for your new journey being sent your way.

  25. Wonderful reflections, Stan. It has been a privilege to know you both. Your writing over the years has been wonderful. It won’t seem the same without you. Although, I’m glad to see you’re getting back into pastoring. Bless you, friend!

  26. Stan, you and your voice have been for me one of the most honest, sensitive and trustworthy throughout your years with the Covenant and the Companion. Your message here comes in the same deep way and I appreciate your sharing. I am sad to see you leave this ministry, where you absolutely and without doubt “have been good for the Covenant.” I always look for your name on stories, knowing I will find truthful, caring and compassionate perspective. As you begin your new ministry adventures, maybe part of that will include writing we can continue to access in some way? I hope so. Whatever you are called to do, all the very best.

    Bonnie Train Summers

  27. Stan, I have always read your stories from Kenya. Am a local missionary with Covenant Church in Kenya
    May The Lord God lead you as you start this new ministry journey!
    With Love from Kenya
    Patrick Karanja

  28. Moving with — living on —-thank you for writing our stories as Covenanters and sharing yours.

  29. Thanks for sharing your story with all of us, Stan. It’s been a gift to work with you at Covenant Offices.

  30. You will be missed for all you have given to us through your writing work. May you find great joy and satisfaction in the work you are now called to.

  31. So beautifully written, Stan! I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet you, dear brother! Thank you for exhibiting the kindness of Christ in every season. Take care and enjoy living on until the day you are reunited with Marcia.

  32. Thank you so much for your years of service and holding grief with our family too. You pastored people through your good, written work. Blessings on the next chapter!

  33. Beautiful story yet again Stan. You have blessed us with so many over the years. I am excited for your new “life” as a chaplain as you also hear and hold the stories of others.

  34. Beautiful story telling. Our best wishes, lots of love and prayers for one of the best friends in the Covenant.

  35. Bless you, Stan. You are truly a gift. You have told us our story as it continues to unfold over time, and we are grateful.

  36. You and your stories will be missed Stan. I appreciated the time you wrote a story about a monthly multicultural service that I was co-leading. I wondered how you found out about it and enjoyed the resulting story. May God bless your new ministry.

  37. Thanks Stan for all the ways you have shared stories of so many lives and events in such meaningful ways. You will be missed. Trusting you will find new and important ways to serve.

  38. Dear Stan, my heart continues to grieve with you and now moves into this next chapter and rejoices with you! We too are starting a new chapter and moving on in a way. So I truly relate in some ways with what you are doing. Blessings on you and as always we are grateful for your impact in our lives. Sending our love with you to Florida.

    1. Stan, Not sure what I miss most – your stories or your pastoral care. Praying Gods best for you!

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