Missing Dr. CoonradPosted: April 14, 2019
I was the lector at church today. Given my low, loud voice and relatively slow reading of the scriptures the older members of the congregation seem to appreciate when I lector. When I leave church after lecturing at least two or three senior congregants stop me and thank me for reading. One of the things I love most about our church is the big diversity of ages and I am always pleased when the seniors are happy.
Today was a little different for me. I read the way I usually do and I had three people thank me after church, except for my best and most consistent cheerleader, Dr. Ralph Coonrad. For the last twenty years whenever I have been the lector Ralph was always the first person to tell me how much he enjoyed the scripture and my reading. Sadly, Ralph passed away this past Wednesday at 95 and I really missed having him in the pew.
Ralph was a founding member of our church and is listed as number 1 in our membership rolls. He was a brilliant orthopedist who treated thousands of children with scoliosis in North Carolina, invented the first elbow replacement and still visited patients at Duke Hospital everyday well into his nineties. But he would never tell you any of these things. He was born in China where his parents were missionaries, but when you talked to him about that he would always turn the conversation to be about you.
He was kind, caring and selfless, but would blush if you mentioned it. He was always friendly to children and spoke to them in ways that were welcoming to them. Despite being very tall I am surprised his heart fit in is body because it was bigger and more generous than most people.
In the last few years I knew he was losing his ability to remember exactly who everyone was as he wheeled himself on his walker into church, but this smile and warm greeting never changed. It did not matter if he could not recall your name, he loved you just the same.
I feel lucky to have known him and every time I lector I will miss seeing his smiling face in the back on the right nodding as I read. The world was lucky to have Dr. Coonrad in it and now heaven is a better place.
The service of the celebration of his life is April 26. Sadly I will miss it because I will be in Boston helping Carter, but Ralph would say, that is where I am supposed to be.