Monday, February 22, 2016

Keeping Vigil...

     It all began, this vigil-keeping, with my husband, Carl- keeping
watch as leukemia ravaged his young, once-healthy body, robbing
us- me and our children, family and friends- of this caring, lovely
man far too soon- me, thirty-three, him, thirty-seven...watching
that last week as fevers raged and chills convulsed and so little of
him- the him that had been, the him that I loved- remained... my
sister, Susan, keeping vigil with me until, exhausted, I slipped into
sleep, only to be awakened by his final ephemeral kiss good-bye,
(did I only imagine it?) even as Sue was shaking me awake to say
he'd gone, Death welcome as it slipped silently through the door.
     Countless Hospice patients later crossed my path, inviting me to
share their journeys home, honoring me with their trust and an
awareness of Holy Ground each time I sat and held a hand, soothed
a brow, wept with a spouse or child- holy vigils all.
     Then there was Mary, my dear friend, who would not allow me to
come near the end of her journey with breast cancer. "I don't want
you to see me like this," she protested. Instead, the phone became
my vigil-post, long daily conversations about her fears and faith,
hopes and doubts and questions...regrets about taking that last round
of chemo, at leaving her beloved Henry, her parents, her horses, her
many friends, her church... about her gratitude and anger, about
feeling simultaneously thankful and bereft for what had been and
what would never be...her voice growing daily weaker and more
thready until at last, the phone call came..." Mary died today," and
my vigil ended.
     Years passed, and this pastor was called to many bedsides, sat
with innumerable families, held beloved hands as dear souls breathed
their last, offering blessing and comfort as I could, though most
often, I was the one being blessed.
     Then one day came the call from my cousin, Mark. "Linny, I can't
do this by myself," and so I went to be with Uncle Dean, sat by his
hospital bed those last few days making sure his pain was managed,
his room was quiet, and he was not alone... sleeping stretched
between two chairs when I slept at all... comforting my cousin, an
only child, as he became an orphan- his mother gone many years
before... keeping vigil as my dear uncle finally eased out of this life
to join his beloved wife in that place where souls meet and rejoice
in the reunion.
     And far too soon, going to Mark's bedside, his failing liver no
longer able to sustain his life, abused by years of alcohol and
sadness...another vigil beside the bed of a man far too young for
such a fate... jaundiced skin and eyes, restless heart and mind...
and I could only watch and wait- and pray for tender mercies until
the end, Death once more a welcome guest.
     And now, another most-unwelcome vigil, keeping watch as a
dear younger sister makes the journey from this life to that place
where we cannot accompany her, those of us who wait- though I
know she will not go alone. Countless loving souls await to line
her final pathway, faces alight with joy and welcome, while here,
my vigil will come to an end, and I will breathe a last "good-bye"
with tear-stained face, even as I wish her traveling mercies and
Godspeed, with all my love.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Today's Prayer

Grant that she many finally
Rest in holy peace
At home with you and those in whose
Company she will live in love
Eternally. Amen. Let it be so

This Dying...

The sunlit turquoise window niche
casts a lustre of blessing
on the room where she lies...
sometimes fully here
sometimes seeming far away,
her eyes fixated on a view
I cannot see, I cannot know.
"Who touched my shoulder?" she asks-
a touch which only she can feel.
"This morning I feel great,"
her weakened voice insists,
as nailbeds cyanose and cheeks are sunken
more and more with each passing day.
It's a slow and plodding process, this dying...
a path which I will one day also walk...
and I cannot help but wonder
what's it like for her- to know that each passing day,
each passing hour, brings her that much closer
to what?- the end of all she's known...relationships
and work and love and creativity...
though in the near distance
a door is opening and those she loved and lost are beckoning
with smiles of welcome, just waiting to embrace her
and bring her to a place of light,
even as we, here in this darker place,
wave a tear-stained good bye.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Transformation Needed...

Life has been reminding me lately that I am not in control of it...not
my own, nor anyone else's. Unexpected death, ongoing illness, and
my carefully-planned schedule is turned on its ear. Like the weather
in this part of Carolina, things can change in the twinkling of an eye,
and the path I'm navigating becomes uneven, rocky, giving me no
sense of what lies around the next corner. Many of my recent
days, in fact, have felt like I was stumbling along in the dark, or at
least in a murky fog in which I am uncertain where next to place my
foot, lest I stumble and fall headlong into who-knows-what.

My prayers have become pleas, I'm afraid, for peace...for strength...
for courage...not only for myself but for so many I love. And I cling
ever firmly to the Incarnation of Divine Love made known to me in
the countless friends in countless places who have been supporting
and uplifting me. How would I ever survive without them? But then,
I don't think I'm supposed to...survive without them, I mean. I
believe that we are all in this endeavor called "Life" together; that
we are intended to be there for one another, so that when I am weak,
you are strong; when you are weeping, I can dry your tears, and
when life is joy-filled, we can celebrate together.

As I sit here on this chilly February afternoon, tired and without
much energy, contemplating the task of completing a sermon to
preach tomorrow morning trying to use a brain which has turned to
mush, I am overwhelmed, truly overwhelmed. Oh, it's been rattling
around in there all week, yet making sense of it all seems beyond
my poor capabilities at the moment. And so, I'm throwing myself
into the Everlasting Arms, making one of my plea-prayers that the
Divine One will fill me with wisdom, and if not wisdom, at least a
bit of energy and determination for truth-telling, sharing my
weakness and humanity with people who mostly love me, as I love
them. Perhaps, together, we can seen through the fog and darkness
in our lives to the place of light on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Perhaps, together, we can see our individual lives transformed by
that holy Love which uplifts and transforms us all and makes of
us a community of faith. May this truly be so.