Indianapolis has lost one of its valuable citizens, though her death will be noted only by those who personally knew her—all who cherished her.
Memorial Day weekend, Gina Drey died in her home. She was recently diagnosed with cancer in her vital organs. In her early seventies and already coping with a variety of health issues, it is easy to imagine her heart simply gave out.
And what a heart it was—always giving out to others in her community, her church, her family, and her friends.
Julie and I met Gina the second Sunday in July 2015. We had just moved into the house we bought and were looking for a new church home. As I used my daily run to get to know the neighborhood, I jogged by First Trinity Lutheran Church, a convenient half mile from us.
We checked their website. We found them a small group and mostly older than us. Multi-cultural, just like our new neighborhood. We got the sense this could be the place for us.
Entering, we were greeted by a gregarious woman handing out bulletins. “Welcome! I’m Gina!” Her smile was as large as her friendliness. Before we went to a pew, we felt like old friends.
In these days since her death, I have realized this: Gina was the best friend I’ve made in my six years in Indianapolis.
In “retirement,” Gina was the church secretary. (Her previous occupation had been, of all things, a debt collector. I could only imagine that no one could say “no” to her.) As secretary, she was paid for six hours a day, three days a week. She was in the office way more than that.
You know the type. Every congregation has at least one of them. That woman who serves on boards and committees and the altar guild. That woman who teaches Sunday School. That woman who prepares an abundance of food for church dinners. That woman who attends every congregational event. That woman who’s always first to arrive and last to depart.
At First Trinity, that woman was Gina Drey.
You know the type. Every congregation needs at least one of them. That woman who calls the sick to see how they are. That woman who mails birthday cards—homemade ones, at that. That woman who provides snacks for meetings. That woman who bubbles over with her greetings, who laughs with ease. That woman who is so reliable that you never think about her not being there, doing that.
At First Trinity, that woman was Gina Drey.
You know the type. The way she is in her congregation, so she is in her community. That woman who frequents many local diners, making friends at every one. That woman who belongs to all the social groups. That woman who gladly picks up whoever can use a ride to dinner or a meeting. That woman who always calls to see if she can give you a lift—especially of your spirits.
On the northeast side of Indy, that woman was Gina Drey.
Gina never married. She had no children. She had two brothers, with whom she was close. Despite her small physical family, she had many brothers, a host of sisters, and loads of kids. If a person did not feel a kinship with Gina, it wasn’t because Gina didn’t have a caring heart for that person.
The Lord Jesus instructs all to “let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) This, Gina did. As her Lord faithfully shined His love upon her, Gina faithfully reflected it wherever she was and in whatever she did.
Even after Julie and I left First Trinity, Gina remained faithful in her friendship. The calls and cards and invites to lunch kept coming.
The last time I spoke with Gina was a few days before her death. She had learned that her first chemotherapy was to be on Friday. Her prognosis was not good, but you never would have known it by her voice.
I recited the Twenty-third Psalm. Arriving at key phrases, I slowed down. Stressed the faith heard and promises made.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I concluded, “Gina, you belong to the Lord. Whatever happens, you will dwell in His house forever, with your Jesus.”
Now, I heard a tear. “Yes. I know I will.”
I closed with “I love you, kid. Talk to you, soon.”
Since learning of her death, I’ve been experiencing the thing that’s common at the loss of a loved one. I can’t grasp that I won’t be talking with Gina again in this life. I’ve been daydreaming about the many ways she and I spent time together, especially at church. In worship. At Bible class. Having lunch after church.
Though I look forward to the great reunion in heaven, I mourn the temporary loss. All of us, her extended family, mourn a deep loss.
Gina Drey made the world better. She left our hearts fuller.
Truly, Indianapolis has lost one of its valuable citizens. An unsung star.
We need a lot more like Gina.
Let’s all be like Gina.