In February, I attended the funeral or “home-going” for Georgia May Spencer-Bush. Georgia was someone I knew who worked at both Baptist Health and St. Vincent when I was employed by those companies. She worked as a cashier in the cafeteria. She knew everyone and everyone knew her. She had a great inner spirit about her. Her face just emulated light. She had a beautiful smile and would always ask us how we were doing as we came through her cashier line. She knew me well enough to know when I was troubled or worried or concerned or not feeling well. And, if so, she always had something encouraging or empathetic to say that made me feel better for having seen her and spoken with her. It always brightened my day to see Georgia.
We learned early on to get into Georgia’s line if the cafeteria was crowded. She’d move faster than any other cashier to ring up our food and get us back to work as quickly as possible. She understood and appreciated that, in a hospital setting, it was important for the nurses and patient care staff to get through the line as quickly as possible as many of them had only 15-30 minutes to break for lunch.
I remember a time at Baptist when there was a big campaign on about the proper wearing of name badges. It was a Joint Commission requirement and hospital administration was cracking down on everyone to be sure our badges were displayed properly. I had noticed that Georgia’s badge was always turned the wrong way so no one could see her photo or name. In her case the badge wasn’t just accidentally flipped over. I noticed that she had actually clipped it on backwards every day. I thought about saying something since I was involved with the customer service and satisfaction improvement teams at the hospital and so one day I asked her about it. I said, “I notice your badge is flipped.” “Oh, yes, sorry about that.” She flipped it over correctly. I told her I had noticed it was flipped most of the time and wondered why. She said she didn’t like her name. I asked her, “What is your name?” She said, “Georgia.” I said, “I think Georgia is a pretty name.” She said, “Well I don’t like it.” She added that she had asked the human resource department to put on a different name, but they had refused – I suspect this was probably due to some policy requiring the use of real birth names versus nick names. Georgia seemed frustrated by their refusal to honor her request. So then I asked her, “What do you prefer to be called?” And she said, “Miss G.” So I started calling her Miss G from that day on.
A few years later, after I left Baptist and went to work at St. Vincent, I went into the Infirmary cafeteria one day and found Georgia working as a cashier. Pleasantly surprised to find her there, I went up to her and said, “Hello Miss G, welcome to St. Vincent.” She remembered me right away and seemed equally delighted to find a friendly face at her new place of employment. I noticed her St. Vincent name badge was turned the correct way and had “Georgia” on it. I also noticed that her co-workers at St. Vincent called her “Georgia.” I think over time, she came to accept and maybe even like people at work calling her “Georgia.”
The home-going service was a beautiful and emotional tribute to Georgia. I learned she was the wife of Solomon Bush who also worked at St. Vincent. I knew she had a daughter but didn’t know she had a grand-daughter. I learned her family and friends, and in particular her grand-daughter, called her “GG.” Maybe that’s where she came to like the reference to “Miss G.”
I learned she was a fierce prayer warrior and helpful friend to many. And even though her death was sudden and unexpected and came way too soon for those who knew her, her home-going was a beautiful tribute to how this one woman impacted so many lives in such a powerful and positive way.
During the preaching part of the service, one of the pastors at Georgia’s church told a story about a young minister who suddenly lost his entire family – his wife and kids – in a house fire. As the young minister struggled with his grief and questioned his relationship with God and how God could let this terrible tragedy happen, he thought about leaving his job as pastor of his church. The young minister happened to be walking around town one day and passed by a church being built. He saw a construction worker with a hammer and chisel chipping away on a piece of granite. The young minister asked the construction worker what he was doing. The construction worker replied, “See that triangular opening at the top of the church steeple?” “Yes,” the young minister replied. “I’m carving this piece of stone down here so it will fit up there.”
The pastor at Georgia’s home-going paused and repeated this part of the story for emphasis. “I’m carving this piece of stone down here so it will fit up there.”
The pastor made the immediate analogy to how God uses our life experiences and pain here on earth during our lifetime to carve us into the perfect beings we need to be to enter into heaven when the time comes. I thought of Miss G and how, from my perspective, she already was a perfect being and ready to be with the Lord, even if we weren’t quite ready to let her go.
As I heard the pastor tell this story, I was immediately and personally struck by it both emotionally and spiritually. I recognized that I, too, as we all are, was going through a stone-carving process to allow me to be with God when I die. The words, “carving in stone” echoed in my mind as I thought of the song I wrote several years ago called “Carving in Stone.” I thought, WOW, Georgia’s talking to me from the grave! She’s saying to me, “Keep doing what you are doing for God is not finished carving you yet. There’s more for you to do here. There’s more for you to do to serve others with your music.” WOW, I thought. Thank you, Georgia! Thank you for helping me to see that.
I had instinctively sensed that I needed to attend Georgia’s home going and now I know why I was called to be there.
Here are the words to my song, “Carving in Stone.” To listen to a sample of the song, visit my website at http://www.CellaDawnMusic.com.
Carving in Stone
(c) 2008 Peg Roach Loyd
The sculptor’s eye sees the potential in a block of stone
A word or a phrase, a thought or a feeling must be conveyed
Chorus: Chipping away at the stone, revealing a story untold
Hammering down to the bone, the carving born out of the stone
The strength of a man, with a hammer and chisel, pounding the stone
Chipping away parts of his own soul to make the stone whole (Chorus)
Working away, hard at it for days, seeming never to end
Struggling to find the next curve or next line to carve in the stone (Chorus)
The man presses on, cold chisel in hand, to finish the load
Revealing inside, a Madonna and child, born out of the stone (Chorus)
Photo shows “Moriah’s Dream” by sculptor Bill Hopen, on the campus of David & Elkins College, Elkins, WV