I read through the service quite a bit yesterday, not sure if I could make it through it with my own grief so fresh and sharp, but once I got onto the stage, everything fell into place. One person told me today that I am perhaps an example of the "best kind of humanist," and I took that as a glowing compliment. Another told me that she couldn't say that she enjoyed the sermon, but it certainly gave her food for thought (I admit, there were dark parts to it, but life is not all goodness and light, now is it?).
I credit my success in large part to preparation, but also to the love and care of our music director, Glen, who was incredibly solicitous of me, empowered me to change the order of service as needed, and did a great job planning music while I was on personal leave. His quiet emanation of love and support from the piano was palpable to me as I led the service, and for the first time, I really felt like I owned it. It was mine. Start to finish, music, readings, my scarf falling off in the middle of my sermon, stumbling over a word here or there...it was mine to own. I also had the most gorgeous decor behind me on the sacred shelf; I wish I had a photo of it to show you, because it was so creative and soft and touching!
In any event, it was a good way to get "back on the horse" after a week of grief and mourning. A dear congregant came up to me and told me that when her husband died, she got herself to sleep that first night, and woke up in the morning only to open her eyes and think: "GodDAMN, he's still dead!" It made me laugh, but it was also so true. I have received so many cards, calls and emails from the congregants at my teaching site and my home congregation that I am overwhelmed with the love of it all. I feel incredibly blessed to be going through this loss while in ministerial formation. There is no other time in one's life probably when I will again have this kind of daily support and love from such a wide and diverse group of colleagues, professors, friends, family and congregants.
I continue to grieve. The thought of my father's hands - large, confident, firm, but gentle. The idea that those hands have doppelgangers on the person of my uncle is a comfort. I feel my father's spirit strongly. I see it in my son, where I had not noticed it before, but he has my father's wave of curl on the back of his head, his outgoing and laughing personality, his ability to make friends instantly and everywhere. I have been arranging photos and wrestling with the complexities of his life and its impact on my extended family, many of whom are estranged or barely known to me, often for reasons that are barely known.
I feel love, anger, loss, pain. I want to bargain, though I am glad he is finally at peace. I said everything I needed to say to him back in July when I went home during CPE training to be with him during his TIA. But there is always one more affirmation of love we can give.
So I came home, I tried to nap. And failed. And took my oldest daughter - just her and I - to the outlets for a new winter coat for her. She looks dashing in a navy blue pea coat and a black autumn trench coat. We bought a few small gifts for her siblings, and had fun at the grocery store after. My children have been seeking me out for this one on one time. A private chat here, a movie there; someone sprawled across the foot of my bed, telling me their frustrations, hopes, dreams and successes.
Sundays are my favorite days. Church and family. Work and ministry. School, learning, love, life. It's all of a piece on Sunday.
I think I'm ready to re-enter the world tomorrow. The first Monday of a new life without George. But with his memory and his spirit at hand.
The holiday season is upon us, and as David Barry so sagely said,
In the old days, it was not called the
Holiday Season; the Christians called
it 'Christmas' and went to church; the
Jews called it 'Hanukka' and went to
synagogue; the atheists went to
parties and drank. People passing
each other on the street would say
'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy
Hanukka!' or (to the atheists) 'Look
out for the wall!'
Rumi, the great Sufi mystic, says:
This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight . . .
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.