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Posts Tagged ‘remembrance’

For the most part I am a fairly laid back individual. One of the realities of my vocation is facing death within the Congregation and with members of the community itself. Something that has bothered me for a very long time is the infuriating necessity people have to use any word, other than death.

Flowers die, plants die; they don’t take a dirt nap. Although that pun is pretty funny.

Pets die, or they are euthanized. It drives me batty when I hear someone say that their beloved pet was “put to sleep”.

A friend of mine spoke of just this thing as she eulogized her father. When my dad died a few years later I heard her words coming out of my mouth. A paraphrase of what I said went something like this…

My father died and it hurts.
He is not “resting in the arms of Jesus”. If you knew my Dad you’d know that he and Jesus weren’t on a first name basis.
We did not “lose him”. He is not wandering around the Wal-Mart parking lot looking for us.
He did not “pass away”. He did not “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
He did not “kick the bucket”. He could not lift his leg that high.
He did not “expire”. He’s not a parking meter.

I think you understand what I am saying.

My dad died. It hurt. And trying to soften what happened did not make it any better.

Why are we so afraid of saying “death” or “died”? A quick internet search turned up over 100 euphemisms for dead, some of which are absolutely hilarious. Some of which are entertaining, and some are just plain weird.

When I meet with a family whose loved one has just died, my first words are “I’m so sorry” and I wait for them to speak next. If they don’t, we sit in silence, or, if appropriate, give them a hug.

So many well-meaning people said completely useless and even insulting things to me, thinking they were being helpful. I am a person of faith. A religious person. My father was not. So attempting to be “helpful” with phrases like “he is now at rest”, or “in the arms of his Saviour” were not helpful.

My dad believed in something greater than himself, and I believe he was at peace with God, but he did not get into specifics. I don’t think he prayed on a regular basis. Because that was my dad. He appreciated being on the parish’s prayers list. “If it doesn’t do any good, it won’t do any harm” was his thinking.

I love my dad and I miss him. We’re having a provincial election on the anniversary of his death. Kind of ironic, given how he felt about politics. He didn’t like euphemisms about things like death and yet he would often cope with the death of his friend by writing down as many euphemisms as he could think. “Taking the great dirt nap”, “shuffled off his mortal coil”, “six feet under”, “croaked”, “snuffed it”, etc.

I think “popped his clogs” was one of his personal favourites, and this exercise helped him come to terms. But when he saw the family he would say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. because truly, there isn’t anything else that is helpful to say.

So on the 12th of June I will cast my vote, as my dad always said “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”. I love my dad. I miss him. One day I hope to see him again.

He didn’t “slip away peacefully’, although he had a peaceful death. He didn’t “pass”, he’s not an exam or an abandoned vehicle. He died. It hurts. But it’s supposed to.

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Yesterday we gathered in the empty tomb that had been stripped bare on Thursday. The lighting was all natural and as it was overcast it was quite subdued. We gathered in silence, some with anxiety on their faces, wondering what was going to happen next.

I came into the Sanctuary of the Worship Space and was seated in silence for a while. Then I asked the congregation to ensure they had a black stone and an order of service. And so it began.

We heard readings from Isaiah and Psalm 22. We heard the epistle to the Hebrews and finally the long and tortuous Gospel of John, where Jesus was ridiculed and beaten, mocked and humiliated, and finally, unceremoniously, nailed to the Cross where he was left to die.

I began by asking what is Good about Good Friday? I likened the cross to a device of torture and death and yet everywhere we look there is a symbol of that death, in wood, glass, silver, pewter, gold. We wear it around our necks, and as other jewelry, and he we are, gathering to worship a torture device.

But the story doesn’t end there. God gave Jesus as a gift of supreme Love. Jesus accepted that challenge and gave himself as a gift of supreme Love. And at that moment when Jesus breathed his last, the earth shook, the curtain of the temple was torn in two and there was three hours of darkness…at that moment hate died, and love was born anew.

That symbol of anger and hate, became a symbol of love and mercy.

We then reflected on the seven last words from the cross and meditated on the symbols of the sign, the crown, the purple robe, the nails, the towel, the stock and the cross itself. And as the congregation felt so moved they set down their black rocks at the foot of the cross and picked up a white stone to symbolise ultimate love and to remind them that they are precious in God’s sight. They are beloved children of God.

I had a nursing home service to do and met with a family to plan an interment service which is happening today. When I had finished my last appointment of the day, the sun came out and it felt warm against my face. A reminder that Good Friday truly is glorious.

Thanks be to God.

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Recently I learned that a good friend and mentor of mine was charged with something pretty horrible. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around this whole thing.

He was one of the first to recognize a call to ministry in me. He walked the journey through the end of a marriage, to relocation, to leaving work and starting all over again. He and his wife were with me when I was Confirmed. B, his wife, was my Confirmation sponsor. She introduced me to the beauty of a silent retreat.

And soon he will be locked away for crimes committed long before I met him. Does he deserve to be punished? Absolutely. Does he deserve to go to prison? That’s not for me to decide. And I’m glad of that.

It’s easy to pass judgment when you hear a report on the news. The victim and the perpetrator are anonymous. You don’t know who they are. What we forget is that for both victim and perpetrator they are someone’s son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend. They are someone’s daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend.

The Diocese removed his holy orders, so she is no longer a priest in the Church. The trust he was given was betrayed and so he is no longer considered able or appropriate to use the title.

My emotions have been all over the place. From disbelief, to anger, to rage, to sadness, to emptiness. I suppose, at some point, I will come to acceptance, but that feels a long way from now.

I ache for the victims he hurt. I pray for their healing every day. I also pray for G. For his family, his community, his life. Nothing will ever be the same for him or for his family. He is a new grandfather. That child will have so many milestones that G will miss.

For the victims, they have lost two decades of their lives. I pray they will reach the place of acceptance and will heal. I hope they find solace in the verdict. I pray they can eventually forgive.

I’m shocked at the number of people who know G who have closed the door to him. It’s as though they never knew him. The distance and speed of the refuting has been unbelievable.

His life will not be safe in prison. Because he was a priest in the Church and because of the crimes he committed. I am scared for him. He’s 66 years old. And he’ll never be the same.

Nor will I. Nor will his family.

As I reflect through the swirling emotions I realise that I have lost my innocence through this. I have always been very trusting and often very naive. I’ve never considered this a bad thing. But now I’m not so sure.

I wonder if my own ministry is tainted because of him? Do I trust all he taught me or do I need to re-evaluate? He presented me when I was ordered Deacon and when I was priested. They were two of the proudest moments of my life. He and B were there when my beloved and I got married.

And so now I sit in the uncomfortable tension. I will be here for a while. And I do trust that eventually, it will get better.

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The 5th of December is a date that will remain with me forever. It has for the past 25 years. All day I’ve been irritable, uneasy, scattered, and generally miserable. Oh, and I think I have a chest cold.

On the 5th of December 1988 my husband of 99 days left me. It’s true. Twenty-five years ago I was adjusting to being newly married, only to switch to newly separated and finally to newly divorced. I had spent the day with my sister-in-law and had left feeling much better than when I arrived. She was married to my husband’s brother, so I asked her advice. She gave it and I was positive and excited about how things were going to be between K and myself.

I walked through the door to the apartment with a huge smile on my face. Then I saw two suitcases packed. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Not we. Just me” he said.

“Pardon?” said I.

“I’ve decided this isn’t working for me, so I’m leaving”.

“Scuze me?”

“Yep, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be”.

“We’ve been married five minutes”.

“No, it’s been longer than that. But I made a mistake. I should have married you. Can I have the car keys please? I’ll be back in a couple of days to pick up the rest of my stuff. I called the landlord and you have to be out of the apartment by the end of December”.

And with that, he was gone.

At roughly 4:30 pm on the 5th of December 1988 my world was turned upside down.

Every year since, on the 5th of December, I have a physical memory of that day.

This year, 2013, just after 6:00 pm, I learned that Nelson Mandela had died.

A great man who leaves an amazing legacy. Nelson Mandela changed the world. And the majority of the planning and teaching for that change happened within the walls of his cell on Robben Island. Prisoner 46664 was initially tormented and humiliated. He rose above this and forgave. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (overseen by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) he was able to put a face on the inhumanity to which he had been subject.

He is a man of tremendous integrity, faith and grace. There is someone in my life that I need to forgive for abuse that was suffered from the ages of 3 – 6. I am closer now then I have ever been to forgiving him. And I believe that due to Madiba’s teaching, I may be able to actually forgive. Not this minute. Not this day. But soon. I may finally able to let go of that to which I cling. I cannot describe what “that” is, but cling to it I must. For now.

Over the past few days I’ve been cleaning and arranging rooms in the rectory. I have reclaimed a room upstairs as my Sanctuary, where I can meditate, stretch, pray, read, write, etc. It is a peaceful and lovely room.

I scoured the upstairs bathroom last night after both dogs had baths. Today I took down the curtains and washed them. I washed the curtains on all main floor windows, washed the windows and sills, and put the curtains back up. The house feels cleaner. It certainly smells cleaner. And my calm is returning.

This morning I reclaimed a small table in the dining room that had papers and other detritus strewn on it. A mess. Chaos. I don’t like that. It is now orderly. I know where everything is and most of the papers from that pile have been recycled or filed away. Order. Calm.

When I heard the news on the radio tonight I stopped what I was doing to listen carefully. Then I sat down and stayed perfectly still. Then I prayed. I gave thanks for Madiba’s life. I gave thanks to G-d for making Apartheid a memory instead of a reality. I promised to be more optimistic and to be more understanding. I prayed for guidance and strength. Then I sat, in silence and stillness for what seemed like a long while.

Then I slowly got up, made some tea and continued with what I was doing.

This week has been a physically and emotionally productive week. I’ve not slept nearly enough and I suspect that, combined with the dust and grime that’s been unearthed, is part of the reason I am having respiratory issues.

This weekend will be a very hectic weekend. And it will be draining, emotionally, spiritually and physically. But it will be worth it.

Mr. Mandela, you changed the world. You have inspired generations to learn from you and to do their part to change the world. I pray, one day, to make you proud of the changes that you have inspired in me, in my small corner of the world.

May you rest in peace and rise in glory. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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Worldwide, the 20th of November has been designated as Transgender Day of Remembrance. In 2013, 238 people were murdered because they were transgender. It is estimated that only 1/4 to 1/3 of murders in the trans* community are reported because of family issues, homelessness among the community, etc. Many trans* people live in “stealth”, meaning their family and friends may not know that they are transitioning, especially at the beginning.

Last night I attended an event in the City that was very well attended. There were many trans* people who I had met before and some I met for the first time. It was humbling to be called Ally to a group who are so dynamic and amazing, despite persecution, hate crimes and other indignities that they endure, almost every day.

As I heard the twenty names who were read and the horrific ways they were mutilated and murdered I felt a massive ache in my chest. How must it feel to live in state of fear, simply because you are trying to live your life with integrity?

There is still so much ignorance which exists in the world. Relatively speaking, Canada is a “safer” place to live and yet I have witnessed discrimination and ignorant remarks thrown at my trans* friends. It brings out the Mama Bear in me when I witness discrimination, and yet my friends preferred to either ignore the comment or leave the place where we were, to not draw any further attention to themselves.

For the love of all that is good and holy, we live in the 21st Century. We live in a place and time where we should be free to live as God has intended us to live. Where does it say that love is wrong? Where in scripture is it written that we are meant to live our lives in fear because of who God sends for us to love? NOWHERE, THAT’S WHERE.

I feel humbled and honoured to be an ally to a community where I have been welcomed with open arms. At every gathering there is laughter, hugs, smiles, tears, love and trust.

At the gathering last night the keynote speaker talked about the power of hope and how we cannot have hope without love.

I have said in this blog on more than one occasion, that I believe we can change the world, with love.

The time has come to eliminate hate with love. To silence the voices of hate with non-violent reactions of love. It won’t happen over night, but if we work together, by God, it will happen.

There was a 5-year old girl present, wearing a fabulous sparkly pride headband and she was mesmerizing. When the band was playing, she was riveted. When she heard the keynote speaker, she sat up on her Mom’s knee so she could see better. She is the reason we need to lean towards love. She is worth it and if we follow her, she will teach us what love is truly about.

No child is born knowing how to discriminate, or how to hate. Children are born free of all those things that can tangle us up. At what point do we start with filters and assumptions? Why does it have to be that way?

Today I have worn purple as a sign of respect to those men and women in the trans* community who have lost their lives, simply because they were living their lives with integrity. It shocks and saddens me how brutal we can be against one another. It makes me weep for the future of humanity.

And then I see a beautiful little girl and I hope that she will love us enough to teach us the way. That when she is my age, she will be able to tell her children about what TDoR stands for, and how we don’t have to do them anymore because society has evolved enough to focus on love and hope. She will be able to remind her children of the lessons we need desperately to learn. So the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

Speak peace, have hope, live in love.

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The past few days have been extremely emotional – on the verge of horrendous.

Last Thursday the Church was packed to overflowing as we gathered to celebrate the life of R. A man well-loved and never forgotten. He was 85 years old and died from ALS. He had a full and rich life, serving his country, his community. Marrying his sweetheart for 48 years and raising two sons. He was, as the Bible says, “old and filled with days”.

His Celebration of Life was, indeed, a Celebration. The Church was filled with gales of laughter as we remembered what a practical joker R was, and how he always found a way to make us laugh.

When the Church service ended, I went to the Cemetery while some folks from the Church tidied up. By the time I returned from the Cemetery the Church was locked up tight…with my keys and cell phone inside. It was one more practical joke from R. For the record, I did get back in the Church, about three hours later. And it is a story I will remember and will always laugh as I tell it.

Sunday was our Remembrance Sunday service at the Church. There was a wreath that had stayed from R’s Celebration of Life. We have a white styrofoam cross that we pin poppies to after Communion to change an instrument of hate and destruction into an instrument of peace and love.

During my homily I told the story of my Grand-dad whom I have never met. He was wounded in the First World War and suffered for the rest of his life from neurological issues. He married his sweetheart and had three children, one of whom became my Mam. But he was always a broken man.

I also told the story of two friends of mine. A clergy couple out on the East Coast of this Country. She is a priest in Halifax, and he serves as Chaplain aboard HMCS Toronto. Theirs is a love-story for the ages; a testament to their faith, love and commitment to each other, and to God.

Sunday afternoon we gathered to say goodbye to Baby H. The Church was filled with young people in shock, sobbing uncontrollably and looking for answers. A few members of the Congregation came to offer their prayers and support to the family; as well as to seek peace and comfort themselves. In short, there was a Church filled with people looking for answers.

It felt like they were all looking at me.

I had nothing.

No words. I tried my hardest to write an authentic homily, but everything I tried sounded hollow and unconvincing. “He’s in the arms of Jesus”. Yes, but he should be in his mother’s arms.
“He’s gone home to be with the One who Created him.” Yes, but he should have gone home to his brother.

For the love of God, he was 28 DAYS OLD. Not enough time to learn to speak, never mind have a full life and die “old and filled with days”. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

And then it struck me.

I didn’t have to say anything. My words would not be the salve that would soothe. The Community would extend their heartfelt support to each other.

At Baby H’s baptism I brought a candle, the intention of which was to light it when he got better and went home. He didn’t get better so the candle remains unlit. As I began the service on Sunday I lit a new baptism candle from the paschal candle (which signifies new life) and let it burn through the service and during the reception.

The readings were all chosen because they dealt with children, commissioning and being still in the silence. God wasn’t making an appearance in the machinery beeping and chiming. God wasn’t making an appearance in my raging against the wind and the pain. God was in the stillness, where God always is; and I needed to remind myself, as well as the Congregation; that sometimes we need to simply ‘be still’ and be in the presence of the Sacred.

As usual I wasn’t wearing shoes. I had intended to mention why before the service began, but forgot. Several people asked me about it afterwards and I told them why. They nodded as though they understood.

Today was Remembrance Day, one day after Baby H’s funeral.

The weather was horrible, it was cold, wet and sleeting. The crowd huddled together, comprised of men and women, young and old, children and seniors. Umbrellas covered strangers and friends, and we united to Remember those who laid down their lives, those who returned wounded, those who served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces.

We laid a wreath at our small town service for LGBT Members of the Armed Forces, past and present. The wreath had a rainbow ribbon on it and the purple sash said “Lest We Forget”. Poignant words indeed.

So much loss over the past while.

So much pain.

So much emptiness.

So much fatigue.

And so tonight, as I work far too late, I look out the window at the snow that is gently falling. I have just eaten something that I know I will feel badly about in the morning, but right now I need comfort.

Tomorrow is going to be a quiet day. I will return the house to order. I will do some computer work. I will nap. I may not even get dressed. And let today be a snow day. A Sabbath Day.

The title of this post is When Words Fail, but I’ve written nearly 1,000 of them.

I think, what it all boils down to, is being brave enough to be authentic. Of being caring enough to be vulnerable. Of being human enough to feel and to show those whom you serve all of these things.

We may not have the magic words. We likely have the same questions as you.

We may not have the answers. But we do have each other.

Thanks be to God.

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I have a parishioner in hospital who is 92. His circulation is poor and he’s in a great deal of pain. A well-meaning friend of his insisted he go into hospital and has taken over deciding what he needs and what he doesn’t. I went to visit him yesterday and he was sleeping. I gently woke him and we spent some time together.

With his permission, I anointed him with oil, we prayed, and shared communion. The entire time he was crying because he doesn’t want to live this way anymore. His wife of 72 years died nearly two years ago and he’s been bereft since. My heart aches for him because he wants to die. He’s not suicidal, he’s simply had enough of life and wants to be with his beloved.

When I was getting ready to go, I asked if he wanted a final prayer and he said yes. So we prayed for God to comfort him, to bring him peace and, if it be His will, to call this man home. H cried harder and said “please” over and over again. I held his hand, I kissed his forehead and I said I would be back later in the week to see him.

I pray that he will slip peacefully away and rejoin his beloved. That he will be called soon into the arms of God and be free of pain and suffering.

On Wednesday we will gather at the Church to celebrate the life of R. She was a feisty lady who was a school teacher, raised four children and looked after her husband when he had a debilitating accident. She cared for him at home for as long as she could, and when he died, she threw herself into the volunteer world in our community, receiving a Volunteer of the Year award about five years ago.

The last two years of her life have not been good, as she’s been struggling with health issues. She died in hospital and that would have bothered her greatly as she would have preferred to die at home, the retirement residence she moved to a year or so ago.

On Saturday I will be baptising a two month old baby boy at his grandparents home. Traditionally baptisms are done in a Church setting, but his grandmother has ALS and is confined to her home. Her daughter and son-in-law were married two years ago in the backyard, so that is where we will baptise her grandson. It will be a beautiful and poignant day as we will gather for the beginning of her grandson’s spiritual life, as she faces the premature end of her life.

There are times when I get angry with God for letting people suffer. And while I shouldn’t likely be angry with God because there is always a plan, I WILL get angry when people suffer needlessly.

I will miss H, I do miss R and I will miss C. And while it will be difficult, and has been difficult to let them go, I know I must, as it is God’s turn to hold them safe and comfort them.

And as for me, I, thankfully have many who hold me safe. So while I will be emotionally fragile for the next little while, I know that God is with me, every step of the way, bringing hope with every tear that is shed; love with every hug that is exchanged; and peace with every bought of laughter.

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