This 2004 photo shows Laura and the Rev. Larry Rorem. Larry Rorem served as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church from January 1990 until his retirement in June 2007. He died on Dec. 22, 2020. (Courtesy Photo / Larry and Laura Rorem)

This 2004 photo shows Laura and the Rev. Larry Rorem. Larry Rorem served as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church from January 1990 until his retirement in June 2007. He died on Dec. 22, 2020. (Courtesy Photo / Larry and Laura Rorem)

Living & Growing: He died in faith

He expected to die, not pass away. It is time for us to mourn his death and celebrate his legacy.

By Pastor Larry (posthumously) and Laura Rorem

“Husband and wife for more than half a Century, but more than that—friends from first to last, enjoying one another.” — Gerhard Frost

With great sorrow I write this article. My beloved husband of almost 55 years, Pastor Larry Rorem, died in faith, unexpectedly, on Dec. 22, 2020.

“Jesus breaks trail into the unknown. His mercy lights the path through the years ahead and the moment of dying. His mercy is the path…Jesus died for me. And now I dare to face the dark fact of my personal death. I’ll say it till I die: ‘Lord, I believe. Help by unbelief’…our times are in God’s hands, and we are wise to leave them there. ”

“Death has been called the moment of supreme clarification. Because our Lord is the light of the world, it is consistent with the life of faith to think of death this way. We cannot lift back or cut through the veil that hides the specific details of life beyond the grave. But we believe in the risen One and entrust to him our resurrection…Beyond my most anxious moments lies that moment when all clouds will vanish and I shall see him. Then all his purposes will be clear.” —from the writings of Gerhard Frost, Larry’s favorite Seminary Professor.

The week before his death, Larry wanted us to expand upon our last article, “The Legacy of 2020.” As I pondered on what to write, I found at the top of Larry’s “Living and Growing” file, an article about death titled “Let Euphemism Pass Away” by Peter Marty, publisher of “The Christian Century” dated Nov. 22, 2017, with the words “Some thoughts for a possible ‘Living and Growing.’”

This 1976 photo shows Laura and the Rev. Larry Rorem. It was taken just before the couple processed in for Laura Rorem’s sisters wedding in Ames, Iowa, in the church where Laura Rorem was born, confirmed and married in 1966. (Courtesy Photo / Larry and Laura Rorem)

This 1976 photo shows Laura and the Rev. Larry Rorem. It was taken just before the couple processed in for Laura Rorem’s sisters wedding in Ames, Iowa, in the church where Laura Rorem was born, confirmed and married in 1966. (Courtesy Photo / Larry and Laura Rorem)

Larry was born on Feb. 8, 1945. He was born to serve others with humility, dignity and love. He expected to die, not pass away. It is time for us to mourn his death and celebrate his legacy.

Larry felt euphemisms such as “pass away” are attempts to make death more gentle and pretend nothing happened. Society does not do well with the finality of death.

He was adamant that downplaying death does not allow us to grieve the reality of death. Faith gives us the gift of grief that allows us to journey through the reality and finality of death. Grief is spiritual and meaningful with a path that is seldom clear. Everyone’s journey is uniquely their own, takes time and is without rules. Grief manifests itself in different ways, forcing us to redefine ourselves and our lives as we look to God for strength, healing and hope in the future.

As I tend to my broken heart and grieve the reality of the death of my best friend and soul mate, I celebrate his legacy of love, truth, kindness, compassion, humility, meekness and patience for all humankind.

May Pastor Larry’s life and death move us to be a compassionate healing presence and reason for hope as we love our neighbors as ourselves; care for the most vulnerable among us; work to eradicate COVID-19; expose and eradicate misinformation; acknowledge and repair centuries old wrongs; and crumble the barriers which divide us so suspicions disappear and hatred ceases. May 2021 become the year of renewed faith, healing, hope and love.

• Pastor Larry Rorem has contributed to “Living and Growing since the early ’90s. He was a pastor for 47 years and pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church from January 1990 until his retirement in June 2007. Together, Laura and Larry dedicated their lives to serving all of God’s diverse family, especially the most vulnerable. “Living Growing” is a column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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