reminds me, this year, how many people I know and care for who are in the last days, weeks, months, years of their lives. I must know at least ten people who are fighting off cancer, some successfully, some not. Other dear ones are growing very old and frail. Sunday I will offer a memorial service for a beloved member of our congregation, Hildred Cyr, who succumbed to Pickwickian Syndrome (imbalance of Co2/H2O) and other maladies. A few days ago I got a note from a friend whose cancer has been unbeatable, wanting to talk about her own memorial service.
We have an aging congregation, many approaching age 90. Others are chronically ill with one thing or another. At least one person is in the last weeks of his life, expecting to make it through Christmas and then...perhaps Death with Dignity, if he is able. My own aging is more and more apparent to me as I down my vitamins and a couple of meds to ward off this or that and decide whether today the aches are bad enough to take some ibuprofen.
As I prepare for Sunday's memorial service and consider the prospect of another one or two on its heels, I feel weighted down by this aspect of ministry, even as I feel honored by the opportunity to accompany mourners in their grief. But my grief needs to be put aside temporarily so that I have the emotional space and can be present to theirs.
So I have prepared the eulogy for Sunday with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, missing this woman's presence and yet relieved that her struggle is over. And on Sunday, we will light the chalice in her honor, I will tell her story, we will listen to others' stories, we'll comfort each other, and we will complete part of the important work of saying goodbye.
I love this work deeply yet I am also exhausted by it on occasion. This is one of those times, yet I would not give it up for anything. I know that the strength will be there when I need it, that I am not alone either in my grief or in my joy, and that to be present at these moments of human life is an honor and a blessing.
Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.