Friday, December 01, 2006

In shock...

I have been in "stunned" mode since yesterday afternoon. I was expecting the Social Action committee to descend upon my house for a meeting about their exciting work on a project addressing 'An Inconvenient Truth". While I was waiting for them, about 3p.m., the phone rang. It was our church administrator giving me the terrible news that a long time, beloved, fairly young man in the congregation had died suddenly of a probable heart attack.

I knew this man well. He had been on the search committee which selected me as the minister here on Whidbey. He had been on my Committee on Ministry for three years. He was now on the board. He was the guy in the congregation who could always be counted on to step in with a scale model of our building plan, with financial support, with encouragement and energy and time. He was a man of great compassion and strength. And he is gone, just like that. His wife is in shock and family members are flying in from all over the country.

This is the moment in time when everything I am or can be has to come together, even though it means setting aside my own grief for a time so I can be present for others and help them make their way through the multitude of thoughts, feelings, plans, and the general numbness that accompanies loss.

Yesterday I was surprised by Joy. Today I am charged with helping others through the worst pain of all, but the pain that can help prepare us to receive Joy. I pray that I am able to do so.

Kahlil Gibran wrote:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. How else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Hard words to absorb when we are in the depths of sorrow, but wise words nevertheless.


LinguistFriend said...

Having read much of what you have posted since the beginning of your site, I feel that you have built very strongly towards the role of minister. As the daughter of a pastor, as a career counselor, although a relative newcomer to the role of minister, you project great strength. Recently you have celebrated the coming of life, the joining of a young relative to the communities of family, love, and religion. At the other end of things, whether with warning or without, of course, comes death. You understand that deeply, since you have labored under its threat and survived. The death of this man is and clearly will be a deep loss to one of your congregations, but your obligation is to the living, and I have confidence in your ability to deal with it. Probably everyone around you does as well, so you are stuck with having to carry out the active, reconstructive, and healing role for which you seem very well suited.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, LF, for your kind words and expressed confidence. It tastes very sweet at the end of a long, hard, sad day.

One of my tasks at a death is to spend time with the family, gathering information about the person who has died, creating a memorial service, helping them with the details of honoring a life and mourning a death.

Today I was privileged to sit with the family for several hours, hearing their stories about this dear man, viewing his body with them at the funeral home, listening to their hopes for the memorial service and helping them shape a ceremony that will meet their needs, the congregation's needs, and my own needs to honor him.

I feel much better tonight and your comment has helped me reflect upon my role as a pastor. I am grateful to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure which memorial worries me more, the one I would try to put together for a stranger by talking with the family, or the one for a beloved congregant who will leave a personal hole in my life. It's true that "joy and woe are woven fine," but it really can hurt being carved and baked by loss. I'll be thinking of you.


ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Bill.