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Archive for October, 2012

It has been said, if you want to make God laugh, then make plans. For the past year things have been a struggle for me, worse than usual. Usually I can find perspective in all I do, and yet lately its not really seemed worth the struggle.

One of the most powerful services is the All Soul’s service we do annually. Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one, or who is struggling emotionally or spiritually, is invited to attend the service. It’s a service that is quite simple. There is silence, prayer, music, anointing and communion.

Every year the group who gather is different. Some people come every year, some come once and never again. Others come one year and then not for a couple of years. But wherever we are on that journey, we come together to provide support, hope and love for each other.

This year the service will take on a new layer for me as I struggle to deal with the death of my dad four months ago. I have presided many, many funerals and celebrations of life, but his was by far, the most difficult. And yet, when it was over, I felt a great pride that his wishes has been fulfilled. It was tough, but it was worth it.

Yesterday I met with a family who’s son died of cancer at the age of 55. That’s too young. For parents who are only a little older than my own, to have to bury their son is excruciating. There’s really not anything useful I can say to them, because I don’t know how they feel. And so I tell them I’m very sorry. We sit in silence, and we pray.

At times like this, my own struggles seem miniscule in comparison. I know they will wait for me to deal with them. And so I push them aside and through the brokenness that is my life, I reach through and see the hope of new life, reflected in the eyes of parents who need to hear good news. They need to hear that physical death is not the end, but the beginning of eternal life. So I tell them this, and I truly believe it.

After all, it is one of the few things that make enduring the garbage worthwhile. Breaking down is not an option for someone like me. Reaching through is an option. And so I take that option.

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True friends are those with whom you can hunker down in a storm.  Recently I’ve had, what feels like, too much garbage and not enough joy in my life.  I find myself wondering if things will get better.  I liken times like this to cave-dwelling.  I’ve always had an affinity for smaller spaces, feeling comfortable in cubby-holes, cozy chairs and dark or shadowed spaces.

There are those overcast days when it feels like it would be good to stay in bed and sleep the days away.  And yet we can’t do that as we have jobs, families, responsibilities.  Lately I’ve been praying for rain, for overcast days that won’t end.  I know that the sun will rise again, but sometimes I don’t want it to.  I want to stay in the dark, covers over my head, listening to the rain, waiting for the shelter in the storm.

Where is that shelter?  It can be in many places, but none of those places feels accessible to me right now.  I know with time, the sun will shine again.  The storm will pass and life will go on.

But for right now I will wait out this storm in the comfort of my cave.

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My dad

This past couple of years have been challenging. I’ve struggled with depression, with CFS, with an active and aging congregation. I’ve presided the funeral of too many friends, of my dad and of his best friend. And while we are called to remember that death is not the end, but the beginning of new life, it still sucks when someone we love dies.

My dad was my editor. Every university paper and newspaper article I wrote, he read. He never changed content, but read to ensure grammatical accuracy, spelling accuracy and would usually comment, concisely on whether or not the point I was making was understood. Eventually my writing improved to the point where he would read the document and send it back with “I find absolutely nothing to criticise”. High praise from my dad.

His death on the 12th of June was expected but also too soon. We knew he was failing, his health had been failing for a while, and yet although we knew he was dying, we had not fully reconciled that he would actually stop breathing. So when he did, it was a shock. At the moment of his death my mother and I were at the funeral home, planning for the inevitable, never imagining it would be so soon.

I have lived in a different city from my parents for more than 20 years. I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. And yet when I did see them my dad and I didn’t spend too much time together. I would stop in his room and we’d chat about the weather, or the drive, or the mechanical fitness of my car. And yet, I knew, when I had a really big problem, or when I needed advice, that he would be there for me.

I would send him long, rambling emails and a couple of hours later I’d get back a paragraph, at the most, with a suggestion. And it was never something I’d considered, or wanted to consider, and yet he was always right.

My dad was a storyteller, some of my earliest childhood memories are of snuggling up with him, and hearing stories of his childhood. He was a natural storyteller, and taught me well. I tend to be more flamboyant than he was, and yet I love a good story told well. Dad never waved his arms around or used voices or accents other than his own. And his stories were the greatest.

I find myself thinking of him a lot lately, as we just marked 3 months since he died. There will never be another opportunity for him to edit one of my articles. I won’t be able to get his concise answers when I ask for advice. It’s difficult understanding the “never agains” that have happened and will continue to happen as we mark the events, large and small in our lives.

I know he will be with us always. I hope he can hear what we are saying and feel how much he is missed. What I miss most is the awkward hug I’d get at the end of a visit, when I go and say goodbye to him, preparing that it may be the last time I’d see him alive. And he’d always say the same thing; “take it easy” as I was getting ready to leave.

So dad, if you’re reading this as I type it, or will pull it out of cyberspace to give it a once over, thanks. Thank you for everything. For being my dad. For teaching me to tell the story. For supporting me even when I broke your heart. And for loving me, although the words were never spoken, the emotion was understood.

I love you dad, I miss you. Take it easy.

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I’ve not written for a while as I’ve been away. I went on vacation, which was in two parts…the first part was to visit my Mam and some friends and then I brought my Mam with me to the second part of vacation in a place that is very special to me.

I had three things I wanted to do while I was away and foul weather trashed all three things. I’m disappointed but I figure I can always try again another time. Even still, I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to stretch myself physically, something that I don’t do nearly enough.

My return to the parish was uneventful, a day spent driving in the rain. Once I was home, I walked past my laptop a few times, thinking that I should probably log on and check email. But I didn’t. I logged on Sunday morning before church and had 300 unread messages. Once I sifted through the cute emails, newsletters, status updates, and the like, I was down to roughly half. And I left it to go to work.

This morning I logged on again and started working through the list. I’m now down to 9, all of which require action, but not today. Today I’m going to be gentle with myself…

Yesterday after a hectic morning I cleaned the house and did six loads of laundry. Today I need to go to the grocery store. So very soon I’m going to log off for at least the rest of the morning and go get another cup of coffee. Then I’ll have a shower and get dressed, go to the post office and grocery store and then I may have a nap.

This is going to be a very busy week, and I want to be sure to be gentle with myself…because in Church Land there’s no such thing as easing back in to work.

That yoga mat looks pretty inviting…I think I’ll do some yoga today too.

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As one who is in a giving profession or healing profession, it is often difficult to take care of oneself. In fact, when my depression loomed its evil head after several years in absence, it was due, in great part, to me not looking after myself.

Who cares for the caregiver?

My dad died on the 12th of June 2012, after a brief battle with pneumonia. He was about 6 weeks shy of his 80th birthday. My dad wanted to die as he lived…simply. He died on his own, peacefully and gently. After all the health issues he had endured from a traumatic head injury, lower leg amputation, several heart attacks, an abdominal aeortic anyeurism, a femoral break of his right leg and an inoperable abdominal aeortic anyerism; he simply stopped breathing. He died because the time was right.

My Mam looked after my Dad for all of their 50 years of marriage. It wasn’t always easy, but she did what needed to be done. And after he died she was at a loss for what to do next. And thankfully, she chose to live.

She is now, for the first time in many years, concerned with her appearance. I’m heading home to be with her for a few days and she wants to go shopping, to increase her wardrobe and make sure she has clothes that fit for winter. For someone who wore the same tired tracksuit for 10 years, this is huge.

I am in a healing profession, or at least, a nurturing profession. And there are times when I forget about myself in order to care for the other. But I, too, need to be cared for. And that’s what vacation is about.

In a couple of days I’m heading to the northern part of Ontario to spend time with my Mam. I will be taking part in a challenging hike that I’ve not done for many years, because I want to. And it will be a glorious day when I am able to finish that hike…for many reasons.

On Saturday my Mam and I will take the ferry from South Baymouth to Tobermory and will enjoy the colours that surround us…if ever one doubted the presence of God, one need only see the changing colours to truly believe.

We will join my beloved and our wonder hound to celebrate Thanksgiving and to give thanks to God from whom all blessings flow.

This will be my time to slow down and rest. To reflect, to relax and to remember that I, too, am a beloved child of God, created and nurtured in God’s image…and that image is of perfection.

I can’t wait!

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