Posts Tagged ‘sacred’

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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Yesterday was our Annual Meeting. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. This is an inordinate amount of time, but there were some difficult discussions that needed to be made and the congregation present rose to the occasion. By the end of the meeting I was physically and emotionally spent, but spiritually energised.

The Church as an institution is in trouble. It has been for a while. And there are numerous studies that tell us we should do this, try that, change, adapt or die. It’s easy for me, a relative newcomer to the area, to talk about losing our building and starting new. The reality is something very different.

In my life I try to be environmentally conscious. I try to eat organic, buy local, support local business, lessen my carbon footprint, etc. I buy biodegradable laundry and dish soap and don’t have a dishwasher. And yet, I get my hair professionally highlighted. I wear makeup that is for sensitive skin, but is not vegan or organic.

I stopped drinking alcohol and drink much more water than ever, but still drink coffee, mostly decaf, but occasionally high-test.

I try to encourage fair trade coffee and reusable mugs for our coffee hour. The first is a hard sell, the second is a given.

I’m realizing that while I give a 5% household tithe to the Church, I could do more. I give of myself as much as I can, often more than I can, and still; I’m never sure it’s enough.

So over the past couple of days I’ve began to realise that I can’t do it all.

I cannot be everything to everyone.

I cannot single handedly save the world.

But I can do my part.

I can live my life in a more mindful manner. Being fully aware of my surroundings, of what and how I eat. I can show my daughter what I have learned and learn also from her.

I may not always get it right, but I can and will, keep going.

Today was a snow day for my daughter. The buses were cancelled. The snow was drifted badly and it was really cold. So I stayed in my pjs for the morning and watched Netflix. There was a great deal of stuff that needed doing. But I didn’t do it. And shockingly, the world did not stop turning.

I shut off my cell phone. I did not check email. And at 2:00 pm I turned on my cell phone and I did check my email. I made a list of things to do this week, and then I meditated for 45 minutes. It felt great.

You know that I am not a fan of resolutions. I prefer intentionality. My intentions are to take my medication and supplements properly every single day. My intentions are to exercise my body, heart, mind and soul every single day. My intentions are to be mindful in everything I say, so and buy. I reckon with time it will be easier to be mindful and I won’t have to work so hard at it.

I may be wrong, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I am learning to identify my emotions. One that is most difficult for me to identify is anger. It was recently pointed out to me that I am angry. At first I resisted. And then as I began to identify physical posture, general feelings, etc., I realised that I am angry. At many people. For many things. And I’m working through it as best I can. I am also seeking professional help, which I believe will be the most helpful thing I can do for myself.

A year ago I would have been in a state because the package of information from the Annual Meeting wasn’t ready to go immediately following the meeting. This year it’s not ready to go, but will be by the end of the week. I will drop it off in the City next Monday. And the world will not stop turning.

I am not perfect…nowhere near it. I am human. I am flawed. And as a good friend of mine says often…I am keeping it real.

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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 Baby we have been praying for has died. I said it. Out loud. Now it’s real. He was 28 days old. We baptised him at 23 days old, praying fervently for a miracle. But no miracle was realised.

It would be easy to blame God, to blame the Life Force, whatever your higher power or balance of energy is called. It would be easy. But it’s not right. To assign blame to God is to make God appear like a cruel bastard. If I pray enough, hard enough, long enough, enough, enough, enough, the baby will get better. It doesn’t work that way.

When H came into our lives, it was only for a short while. WHY he came into our lives is a matter of debate and discussion. Yes, right now I am quite angry with God. I have shouted at Jesus. I have flipped off the Holy Spirit. But I have not (yet) cried.

On Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm we will gather to Celebrate the Life of one so small…tiny, helpless and perfect.

Between now and then I have a Legion service for a much-loved member of the congregation who succumbed to ALS last Saturday. His Church service is on Thursday morning, and the OPP Superintendent and Chief Commissioner will be present.

While it is sad that R has died, he was 85 years old. The Bible would say that he is “old and filled with days” so that gives us some comfort. But what about H?

28 days is nowhere near a lifetime. And there are those who would say that in God’s time 28 days is an eternity. And I would tell them, I believe them to be mistaken. It’s not long enough…nowhere near long enough.

And when I stop raging I realise that H was sent to us to teach us. From him I have learned determination, patience, dignity, hope, joy and especially I have learned love.

I have no idea what I am going to say at his Celebration of Life. I believe I will simply open my heart and let the Holy Spirit take over. Because there doesn’t seem to be anything useful I can say. I want to scream and shout. I want to pitch things and throw up my hands. But that serves nothing. And leaves me a large mess to clean up.

So I pray. I sit in the stillness and peace. And I let go.

I know the tears will come. And when they come they will not stop for a long time.

So for now I sit in the tension of the stillness and pray that I have the strength and find the strength to do what needs to be done; to say what needs to be said. Not only for H, but for R and for the rest of the congregation.

“O Lord, Open thou our lips.
And thy mouth shall show forth thy praise.
O God make speed to save us.
O LORD make haste to help us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen”.

Amen indeed.

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Nearly three weeks ago a friend of mine had a baby boy. The day of his birth was an amazing and awesome thing. Her labour lasted a long time and she was exhausted by the time he made his wide-eyed appearance into the world. Not long after his arrival he began showing signs of infection…especially through an elevated temperature.

At the time there wasn’t enough pieces to put together to solve the puzzle, and so he was sent home, with instructions for his mother, in case things started to change.

And they did.

He has been in hospital since he was 3 days old. He was transferred from Children’s Hospital in the city near where I live, to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. His heart is strong, as is his spirit, but his flesh is so very weak. His mother was told that he will likely not survive his ordeal. The life support machines that monitor his breathing and support his tiny body will be effective for only three weeks. After that, the machines will be discontinued and he will pass away. There is a 10% chance that he will survive the machine being removed.

So we pray.

I was talking with his mother today and I asked her, gently, about baptism. She thinks it would be a good idea, so I am going to go there on Sunday afternoon with my husband and baptise this baby (who will then be 23 days old) and continue to pray for a miracle.

Today I was visiting with the father of a parishioner who is 77 years old, palliative and who likely has 48 hours or less to live. While he is, by no means, an old man – he has lived a life. Grown up, gone to school, got married, raised a family. He buried his eldest daughter three years ago, and only two months after his daughter died, so did his wife.

Tomorrow I will go and visit a man who was diagnosed with ALS a few months ago. Last weekend he was transferred to a rehabilitative facility, but to the palliative unit. The disease is getting the best of him and he’s not got long to live. He was, only two years ago, actively teaching line dancing, participating in parades and marches and generally giving everyone guff. And now he has lost the ability to wipe his own nose or tie his own shoe. Slowly, he is turning to stone.

At times like this I want to be angry with God. And I do rage against the One who Created me. I rage that it is not fair. I rage that I feel helpless. I rage that I wish I could do more. And then I realise I am only human.

My husband is driving me to Toronto and will be present as I baptise this beautiful 23 day old baby. I will stay with him and his mother until Wednesday and then I will come back home to prepare for our All Souls Service for the 2nd of November.

In life we have death. We are told not to fear death because in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection we will find eternal life.

I believe this, with every fibre of my being.

But how can I help make sense of something that doesn’t make sense to me?

I KNOW I should give this up to God and let God decide. And yet I can’t do that. I am not finished asking for a miracle. I am not finished expecting a miracle. And if the baby dies, it will not be because I didn’t pray hard enough. It will not be because I didn’t have enough faith. It will not be “God’s will” that he dies. It will be because the infection got ahead of him faster than the doctors could diagnose and treat him.

Sometimes its simply not fair…and that is simply life.

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This past few days has been a collection of euphoria; from new beginnings to new life. On Friday two of my friends had babies…one E., was born to two loving parents who had planned for him for many years. The other baby H, was born to a single Mum who has wanted him since she knew he was coming. These two boys will grow up in different homes, in different circumstances, but one thing will be constant…love.

Yesterday I married M & J who have both been married before. They each have three children, very close in ages and eventually all 8 of them will be living under the same roof. M wanted so have his house renovated so that J and her children could move in. Through a series of misadventures, the renovation is not moving as quickly as planned and so, even though they are married, they will maintain separate residences for a couple of more months…hopefully being together in time for Christmas.

Today at our Church we celebrated Harvest Home, where there is a great deal of loving and giving happening. The readings today were all challenging us to step outside the comfortable, the “status quo” if you will. So, instead of my usual celebratory homily for Harvest Home, I “afflicted the comfortable” with my message.

If we believe that all we have comes from God, then it only makes sense we would give 10% of that away…after all, it means we get to keep 90% and that’s a good deal no matter how you slice it.

There was some uncomfortable silence in my homily, which was intentional. There were a number of people who would not make eye contact with me during the homily and again during communion. But there were others in the congregation who gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up for shaking up the status quo and for reminding us that we are not meant to be comfortable; we are meant to change the world.

I leave in less than a week for 10 days of vacation. It won’t be enough time to completely relax, but it will be enough time to walk in one of my favourite parts of creation; regardless of the weather.

As I prepare the homily for next Sunday in Tobermory and work on the story for St. Margaret’s (a first-person narrative of Mary Magdalene) and am reminded of the beauty and wonder of all that is Creation.

I defy anyone to see the changing leaves by the beauty of sunset and tell me there is no God.

So as I sent this post out into the ether I encourage you to ponder the same question as my congregation…if you do consider that all we have has come from God, then what will you do with the 90% you get to keep and what will you do with the 10% that you must give away?

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Last week was a very emotional and very hectic week. I had three 12 hour work days in a row, accompanied by all kinds of driving into and out of the city. It seems I didn’t take the time to rest or eat properly and it threw off my physical balance in many ways.

I was at a meeting in the middle of last week, where I learned that a long-time friend and mentor had been charged with abuse, some of which dated back to 25 years ago. He is one of the reasons I became a priest and was a gentle and wonderful mentor for me. At this meeting he was named and I heard that more charges are forthcoming as his case comes to trial at the end of next month. I was devastated, to say the least. The individual who was speaking about him made no attempt to hide their hatred and contempt of him. I tried to speak a few times and could not find the words…so I left the room and went for a bit of a walk, went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face, to keep from crying.

When I returned to the room there was an uneasy silence, as though someone had told the person who was mouthing off that I am close to the person who has been charged. The silence was deafening as I resumed by place at the table and the meeting continued. When the meeting concluded I made my apologies and left without staying for lunch. I needed some time to clear my head.

On the way home I started thinking of all the time my friend and I have spent together. Of the hugs and long conversations over tea. Of the invitations to come and stay with him and his wife, after I had left the community. He is a new grandfather. He is a father. He is a husband. A brother. A friend. When he was first charged I was in shock. To hear of subsequent charges saddened me. And now to hear that there are more charges again from 15 years ago makes my heart ache.

The ache is not so much about his guilt. I don’t know if he is guilty. And now, with this information about to go public through the trial, his life will never be the same. I pray to God that there has been a huge misunderstanding and he is not guilty of that which he has been accused. But whatever the outcome, in the eyes of society his is forever tainted and will never be remembered for the good he did. The good may be prefaced and then the charges mentioned. If his is guilty it will be front-page news. And if he is found not guilty he will be lucky to have a footnote somewhere.

Hearing about all of this also stirred up memories of my own childhood abuse. A subject I have dealt with and continue to deal with in healthier and healing ways.

It has been one of those weeks when I have had very little time to be alone with God. To be alone with my thoughts. And it has hurt. I attended a workshop on Saturday as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada and the Residential School Survivors. One of the members present was a Residential School Survivor and she shared her story. In the middle of the workshop I had to step out to inter the ashes of a man I had not met, but had gleaned some information from two of his friends. It was difficult to connect with the family as there had been some estrangement.

So here was me, feeling inadequate to the task of journeying with this family, and seeing many in the large crowd hold each other close. There were tears and some laughter and the stories began to be shared around the grave. When I returned to the workshop, they were in the middle of lunch and I was seated and presented with a piping bowl of homemade soup. When the day finished I went to visit with a young friend who is very pregnant (three days overdue and counting) and she is longing for company.

She has decided to raise her baby alone, with the help of her 11-year-old son and her close friends. We chatted for a while about how she is feeling and suddenly I realise she is reaching out to me and saying what a comfort I must have been to the family. “Be gentle with yourself” she told me…something I have said to her.

And as I drove home after an extraordinarily long day, knowing that Sunday was going to be equally long, I asked myself what I done for myself, lately. The answer is not enough.

This week is also a heavy week, but I am carving out time to do things for me. I will walk in the morning with the dogs. I will go out and get my hair done tomorrow. I will do the visits I need to do. I will stop and smell the roses as I go about my day. I will stretch and breathe and bend and laugh and play.

I will make time to be alone in the silence with the Creator. And I will find some peace in the silence as I pray for my mentor; for my friend and her healthy delivery; for myself and for my family.

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I was away last week for five days. I left on Sunday, by train, to the eastern part of the province in which I live. I went to visit a good friend, colleague and mentor. The night I arrived we sat up, drinking tea and chatting, until the wee small hours of the morning. The next day we took a tour to the city where her daughter now lives and then continued driving to reconnect with a mutual friend who lives a couple of hours away. It was wonderful.

I spent a lot of time in silence, in prayer, in meditation. As the days were passing I kept thinking how I didn’t want the time to end, how I wanted to stay away, on retreat for just a little longer.

Reality came crashing back in the early hours of Friday morning when I received a call from a parishioner that her husband had passed away. We had been waiting for this, but it was still a shock and meant there was a great amount to do. On the train ride home I made countless phone calls and emails arranging and organising. There wasn’t much time to fully emerge from retreat time.

It was more like jumping in to the deep end of the pool. Friday night I had a wedding rehearsal which went very well, but took longer than anticipated. When I got home I tried to pull my thoughts in semblance for Sunday’s homily. But nothing has been forthcoming.

The wedding is Saturday night and then I’ll be stopping by a friend’s house for a quick chat and a cup of tea. Then it will be home and hopefully an early night to bed.

While I was away, I felt calm and relaxed, and yet now, not every 24 hours later, I’m back to the frenetic pace that led me to need the retreat in the first place.

Oh well. Now I need to plot out some time for vacation. And likely go away from here, by myself, to simply be away. Only time will tell.

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Lately in the parish and community there have been several significant losses. It seems I’m spending more time with the grieving then any other group. What I’ve learned with time is that there is nothing useful to say to someone who is experiencing a great loss.

There are, however, many things that are NOT helpful when in crisis or grieving. This hit home with me after my dad died. Every one of these phrases was said to me. And they all made me angry. So here they are, in no particular order…

I know how you feel.
Been there, done that.
S/he’s in the arms of Jesus.
They’ve gone to a better place.
You’ll get over this.
You have to stay strong for your mother.
You must be used to this, given what you do for a living.
God now has a new angel in heaven.
OMG, this reminds me of when…
Chin up, s/he’s not in pain anymore.
I’m sorry for your loss.
What happened, exactly? How did s/he pass on?

Now, while these may be true sayings, they are NOT helpful when someone you love has died. So I’ve taken to letting congregations know that the phrase “I’m sorry” is perfectly acceptable, with nothing else added.

Yes, I am a religious person, but it brings me no comfort to be told that my agnostic father is in the arms of Jesus. He wouldn’t like it there. Too many people try to appropriate someone else’s grief by telling their story. With time that may be an appropriate way to share how you’re coping, but not at the funeral home or the church. The person who is mourning is a combination of exhausted, hyperactive, frightened, nervous, and numb. They are not there to comfort you. You’re supposed to comfort them.

Something we seem to be so frightened about is silence between two people. More and more often, when I’m sitting with a family I will deliberately not speak for several minutes, and let the silence wash over the room. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and there’s chatter about weather, sports, etc. But sometimes it’s comforting to be still in the silence, especially of the parishioner is finally sleeping.

Everyone reacts to death and illness differently. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only your way. I stress with families that if they feel the need to be angry, they should express that, especially if they are angry with God. As much as we are prepared mentally for a person to die, when it actually happens we realised just how UNprepared we are. It hurts like hell. And it will for a long time.

It’s not helpful to tell someone to “get over” their loss. The death of a loved one is not something that you ever “get over”. But with time, love and grace, you will get through it. You will be affected for the rest of your life. There will be times when you burst into tears because of a song on the radio. Or collapse in a fit of giggles because of a remembered phrase of joke. And both are absolutely okay.

At some point in the future I will post about stupid euphemisms people use for death. But not today.

Today is about the gift of silence. About the gift of presence. I remembered when my dad died, what I needed was someone to hold me and say nothing. My husband is awesome with that. Not a single word is exchanged, but I can feel the strength of his arms around me, hear the beating of his heart, and know, for this moment, I am safe.

True ministry, I’m discovering, comes from the heart, not from the mouth. There are times when it is appropriate and necessary to speak. But more often, especially when in crisis; it is more important to be wholly present with the person, and to save the words for another time.

With permission, take their hand, give them a hug, but say nothing. The strength you will feel from that experience will be life changing.

Don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t be afraid of anger, tears or laughter. Don’t be afraid of numbness. All are appropriate emotions when mourning.

So the next time you are at the funeral home, or greeting someone in the community who has sustained a significant loss, resist the urge to say “So, how are you?” because that’s not a fair question. A better statement is “I’m sorry.” And offer a hug or handshake, and be still in the silence.

I truly believe that God appears to us, not in the eloquent homilies, or the well prepared eulogies, but rather that God appears to us in the stillness and silence of simply being present.

“Preach the gospel, use words if necessary” is a misquote attributed to Francis of Assisi. While somewhat contentious, I believe it means that to be fully present with a person, you don’t need to say anything. Great comfort can come from silence.

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