Jake Malone has pretty much travelled all over the world as well as throughout this great country of ours. Along with his beloved travelling companion Delores, he has led church members, family and friends to exotic places like searching for the Loch Ness Monster, as well as not so exotic destinations, like simple Sunday afternoon outings here in Augusta. All the while Jake provided the assurance of a safe journey. It should be no great surprise that one of the last things Jake talked about was some of the places he has seen and places he would still like to go. With a steady supply of oxygen refreshing his lungs, in between deep breaths he said to me, “I hope I can see the Horsehead Nebula,” that wondrous nebula located in the constellation Orion. It is impossible to see with the naked eye here on earth, but Jake was hoping his upcoming journey might take him there.
Jake did not just accompany others on trips. He was a traveling companion with so many who were on those remarkable “life journeys” that have their own unique turns and surprises. Whether celebrating with new parents or consoling the grief-stricken in loss, Jake has been there. He was a presence of compassion to drug addicts, to the sick, and to the searching. He travelled alongside numerous ministers in his 33 years of service to this church offering wise counsel, loyal friendship, and an empathetic ear. Through a big hug, a kind word, or a simple smile, he communicated, “I am with you.” On any given day I knew I could go in his office, prop my feet up and find peaceful words and a steadfast presence that reminded me I am not travelling alone.
Seven months ago Jake and I traveled to the Holy Land. It was my third trip but a first for Jake. Towards the end of the tour our bus of pilgrims stopped at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. On this particular afternoon it was unseasonably cool and breezy, but that did not stop several of us from taking a little dip. Standing knee-deep in the mineral heavy water, I snapped pictures of our folks frolicking and floating on top of the water. There was Jake reclined fully atop the water with an open newspaper grinning from ear to ear. A breeze kicked up and Jake’s newspaper became a sail. I laughed and said, “Watch out Jake – you are sailing away!” We did not know how true that was.
I like that picture. I am glad I got to travel with him for these past eight years.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)