Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10

Over the years, this column has celebrated how God’s light shines through those who share their talents in his service. Those interviewed are but a small reflection of the many quiet workers in God’s vineyard. This month, as we observe All Saints’ Day, we bring you a posthumous Going GREYT! account of a couple recently called to their heavenly home, whose story shows how God works through the joys and heartbreaks of our lives and remains with us always.

by Helen Brinkman

A shared love of God and of helping others brought Ray and Clarice Thiele together 40 years ago.

And it was God’s love that brought them to their heavenly home little more than 12 hours apart in August this year. It fulfilled their prayer that neither would be left to grieve the other, as both had experienced lives marred by sorrow, with the deaths of their first spouses and each having lost a child.

Yet together they carved out full lives of love, work and service. The members of Faith Lutheran Church at Warradale, in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, had both been brought up in the church. Clarice (nee Krieg) was born in Brinkworth in 1932, and Ray in suburban Adelaide in 1927.

Ray and his first wife Jeannine, who was known as Jenny, were foundation members of the Warradale congregation, which began regular worship services in 1960. He taught Sunday school, was involved with the men’s fellowship and supporting the youth, helped with the church maintenance, and was instrumental in establishing the congregation’s Lighthouse coffee lounge outreach.

Clarice and her husband Gordon had joined the congregation in 1966 when the two Lutheran synods combined. It was a treasured spiritual connection that lasted the rest of Clarice’s life.

Clarice and Ray’s wife Jenny had bonded through a shared love of God, flower arranging and supporting one another through loss. Clarice’s first daughter, Kerry, had died in 1965, while Jenny and Ray had lost their daughter Julie in 1963. In 1974, Clarice was devastated by Gordon’s death after a heart attack. Then Jenny fell ill with bladder cancer.

At Clarice and Ray’s joint memorial service on August 19, the family described Jenny’s generosity of spirit recalling that, when she realised that she was going to die, Jenny told Ray that he was ‘too good a husband to remain alone’, and that Clarice ‘deserved someone to love her’. ‘You should marry Clarice’, Jenny had said.

Four years after Jenny’s death in 1978, her wish came true, and Ray and Clarice married.

Together they worked hard and contributed to the life of the church. In retirement, they maintained their busy lives volunteering, visiting residents of the local Resthaven nursing home, and Ray continuing his volunteer work with Technical Aid for the Disabled and the Ileostomy Association of SA, supporting people living with a stoma, generally as a result of urinary or bowel surgery.

Clarice and her friends started a friendship group through the church called Plus 50s. ‘She loved socialising and relished the chance to natter with the girls, raise money for Australian Lutheran World Service, “Keep Fit” classes, bus trips to local sights and hoped people would have a laugh together’, the family recalled. The Warradale Lutheran Women’s Guild and Concordia Old Collegians were also regular commitments for Clarice, who boarded at Concordia College, Adelaide, from ages 13 to 16.

However, Clarice and Ray’s story of dying together is as ‘greyt’ as their story of living and serving God together. They passed away around 12 hours apart, on August 8, in separate rooms of Eldercare’s Allambi aged-care home in Glengowrie, in suburban Adelaide. It fulfilled their wish that neither would be left to grieve when their partner died.

This miraculous story of love and service caught the attention of Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser, which featured the Thieles in both its online and print editions. The story even included their family recounting the prayer Clarice lovingly shared with Ray in their final FaceTime conversation:

‘Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me; bless Your little lamb tonight; through the darkness please be near me; watch my sleep till morning light.

All this day Your hand has led me, and I thank You for Your care; You have clothed me, warmed and fed me, listen to my evening prayer.

Let my sins be all forgiven; bless the friends I love so well; take me, when I die, to heaven, happy there with You to dwell.’

Clarice finished with: ‘Amen. Amen. Amen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Beautiful man. Thank you!’ Ray said, ‘Love you’, and went to sleep.

As mourners were told at the pair’s memorial service in August: ‘God’s love guided them and shone through them throughout their lives, bringing them together for 40 years of marriage, sustaining them in Allambi, then taking them together to heaven. Their prayer was that their family, friends and all they met would feel loved and know the love of God.’

And it was only the beginning of Clarice and Ray’s real story, according to the eulogy of their lives together, which cited one of Ray’s favourite authors, C.S Lewis: ‘All their life in this world … had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no-one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.’

‘We look forward to meeting them in heaven.’

As we commemorate the faithfully departed on All Saints’ Day this month, we remember the Thieles, and all the passed GREYTs who have shone God’s light into our lives and the lives of those in our communities.

NOTE: The author and The Lutheran Executive Editor Linda Macqueen sincerely thank the family of Ray and Clarice Thiele, including Lisa McIntosh, for permission to share this story.

Helen Brinkman is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world. Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor lisa.mcintosh@lca.org.au

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