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Posts Tagged ‘support’

Today I presided at a Celebration of Life for a feisty, spirited 84 year old woman. She was a member of the local Legion for decades and was a hardworking member of the Ladies Auxiliary. I had never met her, but her reputation was fierce. I think, had we met, we’d have hit it off.

I met with most of her six children earlier this week and talked about what they wanted/needed from the service. We discussed scripture, prayers, eulogies, reflections and then I sat and listened as the stories began. Many were humorous, some were poignant, and the image that began to develop became quite clear.

Today I met with the family prior to the visitation and I was overwhelmed with the number of children, from newborn to a dozen years old, they were out in force. It was a brilliant collection of noise and excitement, with children playing tag, hide and seek and generally avoiding their parents. A little girl and I chatted about the best shoes (sparkly of course) and whether or not her grandpa should wear hair do-dads like she was (we decided he’d have to grow out his hair first).

About half an hour before the service was to begin, a little boy, about 7 or 8 years old was sitting in the chapel looking at a stained glass image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I knelt down next to him and asked him if he knew who the man was in the picture. He shook his head. I introduced him to Jesus and he asked question after question about the picture. “Where does he live?” “How do you get to be a shepherd?” “Did he get to take his staff with him?” “Is Grandma with him now?”

When we had finished the chat, and I had answered his questions as best as I could I turned around and there were two dozen people standing there, listening to our conversation. I smiled and went to check in with the funeral director and organist. It was time to get on with my “job”.

The youngest daughter sought me out and gave me a big hug. “Thank you” she said. “I wanted to hug you the other day, but lost my nerve”. I smiled and said I’m always ready for a hug…to give or to receive. She said to me “Mum would have loved you.” The comment threw me off a bit, but I smiled again and thanked her.

The service was very well attended, with many familiar faces in the congregation. I chatted with a group of three ladies who are at most all community functions together. And they will be at the Celebration of Life for a parishioner who passed away last night. His celebration will be on Monday morning.

We finished the service and I led the family outside. The weather had changed from sunny and cool to downright miserable with rain. The temperature continued to drop and the rain continued to fall as we headed to the cemetery. By the time we got there, the heavens had opened fully and we were all soaked to the skin.

Umbrellas were turning inside out, and there seemed no escape from the cold, the wind, and the rain. My service book was sodden so I had to wing some of the prayers as I couldn’t see through my fogged up eyeglasses.

I had gathered the great grandchildren around me and asked if they wanted to place a handful of earth in the grave. They did and we huddled together as their great uncle lowered the box of his mother’s ashes into the grave. The wind picked up and howled as I said “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. The children and I dropped our handfuls of soggy muck into the grave and then it was time to go.

I hitched a ride back to the funeral home, then took off my soggy vestments, put on my suit jacket and headed to the Legion to check in with the family. As I pulled into the parking lot the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature began to rise. And I started to laugh.

The oldest son of the woman who died arrived at the same time I did. He got out of the car and started to laugh as well. Well played Elva, well played!

Inside the Legion I said the blessing over the food and the crowd began to eat. I chatted with the children, as they showed me their video games and said they liked the part with the dirt. So did I.

I checked in with each of the children and their spouses and they are all doing quite well. Each of the three daughters said to me, “Mum would have loved you. You are just like her”.

Wow.

That has to be one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. And when the days become long and challenging, I try to hold on to these moments. To remind myself of what God has called me to. To be present in the moment. And above all, to never lose my sense of humour.

Tomorrow is my traditional day off. Far too often I’ve been doing “just one little thing” on my day off which ends up being half or all of the day. Not tomorrow. I have a list of things that will wait for Saturday. I have an appointment in the city at 8:00 a.m. and will spend time after that doing things for me. Some shopping, maybe get my hair done. And then lunch with a good friend. After that an afternoon nap.

And then wait for my daughter at the bus stop before lurching headlong into the weekend.

Today was a day of journey and blessing. And tomorrow will be a day of rest and rejuvenation. Because I have to say, this vessel is dangerously empty, and needs very much to be refilled.

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On Sunday afternoon I drove into the City to participate in a solidarity walk. It was an event that had been organised through social media and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I contacted the organizer and asked her if it would be appropriate to wear my clerical collar. She told me to do what I felt was right. I appreciated her answer.

So I parked at the Cathedral and walked to the park where we gathered. I had arranged to meet a couple of my friends and was delighted to see them on a chilly but beautifully sunny day. I wandered around looking at the chalk art and the signs that folks had made. I felt disconnected from the group and couldn’t really put my finger on why.

An absolutely gorgeous Drag Queen came up and asked me to hold his sign while he adjusted the seam on his fishnets. I asked about his tattoo and he freely shared the story. A transgender friend of his came up and I admired the flower in her hair. We chatted about the beautiful spring day, the lack of police presence and wondered how far we would walk.

My friends introduced me to several people I had not met before and we all chatted easily about nothing in particular. Then I saw an adorable little girl who was called Willow. She had on a dress and sneakers that flashed. She was running around with her arms out, being an airplane. Then her daddy scooped her up and she flew in his arms. He put her down and she ran to mommy who asked her to lay down on the sidewalk with her so daddy could take a picture. Willow would be about 3 and I suspected this wasn’t her first protest march.

She and her daddy got down to some serious sidewalk colouring, creating a rainbow from the sidewalk stones. I watched in awe.

A while later the speeches started and they were all very different in nature and tone. Some were filled with gratitude, some with anger; some used words that I don’t often use, and yet every one of them was empowering. I began to feel that it was okay for me to be there. As a LGBT ally, as a woman of faith, as a priest in the church. I felt it was appropriate to march alongside this amazing community that I had been accepted into.

We chanted as we marched, and again, one or two of them made me feel uncomfortable, so I didn’t chant them, but I did chant the others. My already sore throat from two full services became raw but I didn’t stop. I didn’t have to talk to anyone when things were over. I would go home, see my husband and likely be ready to wind down for the night.

So we marched, and we chanted. And I made some new friends in the LGBT community. I received some fashion advice, had my rainbow scarf admired and one person said “OMG, I just noticed your collar. Are you a priest?” I said I was and she was pleased. She said “thank you for walking with us”. I said “thank you for welcoming me” and she said she would “friend” me on social media, which I am delighted to say, she has done.

As we marched I thought of my mother, I thought of my daughter and I hoped they would never experience the kind of hate that many of my friends have experienced. By the end of the march we felt we had accomplished something in taking back the right to wear what we choose, to say what we need to say. That no means no and silence does not equal consent. We were mocked by one pocket of men, but otherwise, the march was well received.

I felt empowered by the end of the march and as the festivities continued, I thanked my friends, said goodbye and walked back to my car. Everything around me seemed clearer, sharper, I noticed more than I have before. I threw my shoulders back and walked tall and proudly to my car. Confident in my femininity and proud to be part of the ever-growing community that surrounded me. Proud to be a woman. Proud to be an ally to the LGBT community. Learning more about both while standing up for something.

It was a very good day.

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Lately in the media there’s been a lot of body shaming. It’s likely always been there and its only recently that I’m noticing it. There’s the magazine cover shaming where the headline teaser is about losing weight and being the best you can be. There’s the unhealthy images that exploit women, regardless of size, to be thinner.

Dove has recently launched a series of ads touted as “real beauty”. True confession time…I sent in a head shot of myself nearly a year ago. I got an email asking to send more photos of myself, which I did. Then I was called and asked to attend a photo shoot. The date that was chosen was the same date as a wedding I was presiding so I politely explained, and withdrew from the contest.

I wondered, for a long time, if I had been chosen because of my profession…as an Anglican priest. How cool would it be to give a face to “real beauty”. I was extremely flattered that I made it to the final 50 and I received a lovely gift basket with Dove products that the entire family was able to enjoy.

And now the most recent ad, featuring a forensic artist, is being touted as both excellent and exclusive. I like the message, that we are all beautiful. And I do believe that, I preach about it often enough. But the ad featured young women, the only women who were shown in the final cut of the ad were white. There are a few faces of beautiful women of colour, but they don’t get to speak in the ad. That concerns me.

This Sunday in the city next to the village where I live, there is a “Slut Walk”. While the title of the event makes me cringe, it is something in which I will participate. I have friends who are transgender, both men and women. Recently one of my female friends was walking with her partner in the city and they were jeered and heckled. Both women felt frightened, but maintained their dignity through their fear.

NO woman or man should have to feel this way. NO man or woman has the right to judge those who are different.

I am participating in the Walk on Sunday afternoon. I’m thinking about wearing my clerical collar in order to show support as a woman of faith. I have been uncomfortable walking to my car after an evening meeting. Not so much in the village where I live, but definitely when I am in the city. And it’s not right. And it’s not fair.

So I’m going to stand with my sisters and brothers in solidarity. I will wear my clerical collar and comfortable shoes. There will be pants and a jacket, just not sure which ones. I will walk for those who have been hurt. I will sing for those who feel their voices silenced. I will dance with those who have lost the joy in their lives.

I’m going to speak out against body shaming. Regardless of how much we weigh. Regardless of how we choose to dress. Regardless of what we might have said or done. Nobody deserves to be hurt.

In the wake of the Boston bombings people are more anxious then ever to join in a crowd. As a strong introvert I have a hard time being in a crowd, but I will be there with my friends. And we will look out for each other.

Because it’s time to put an end to the violence. It’s time to stand together, shoulder to shoulder and speak out for those who cannot speak. To remember those who have given their lives. We will dance, we will sing, we will laugh. We will remember. Always.

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Dignity

I’ve not posted for a while as I’ve been stupidly busy and not making much time for quiet. From Wednesday to Friday I was away at our annual Diocesan Clergy Conference that takes place at a monastery in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Austere and beautiful surroundings, but we don’t get much time to wander about as the schedule is pretty full.

This year’s Keynote Speaker is a Bible Studies theologian from South Africa. His theme was maintaining dignity and while the context of his talks was centred around South Africa, a great deal of what he said also made sense in a Canadian context.

He talked to us about oppression and the importance of giving a voice to those who are voiceless. He talked to us about the inherent dignity in every human being, regardless of birthright. I’ve always thought there was little, if any, class distinction in Canada and yet I’m realising that there is a great class distinction drawn across lines of poverty and wealth. We are a society of haves and have-nots.

I’m still in a place of great fatigue and doubt. We are winding up the Christian Year, in fact, today is “new years eve” in Churchland, it’s the Reign of Christ. Usually I develop a theme for Advent that carries through the year and this year it’s being called “out with the old, in with the new”. I’ll polish it to something more theological sounding before I write that homily, but for now, that’s what life is about…

I’m at a place where I need to get rid of that which burdens me, both emotionally and physically. I need a space that is only mine, where if I put something down it will stay there, and if it gets messy it’s because I made it messy. I need a place where I can shut the door and be alone with my thoughts and prayers. But mostly I need to know that it’s okay to have that time for me. That my dignity is important, as is my peace.

Remember that each of us are created in the image of God and that image is of perfection. Respect the inherent human dignity of everyone and respect your own dignity. Be gentle with yourself. Own who you are. And if you’re still figuring out who you are, take your time, enjoy the experience. You are worth it.

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Today was our Harvest Home and Back to Church Sunday. It was awesome to see so many children, each of whom brought a friend to Church today. We sang, we danced, and we donated many, many pounds of produce to the local foodbank.

The homily today was on forgiveness and I was amazed at the positive feedback that followed the service. It seems there are many people who are having difficulty forgiving a past hurt.

In my humble opinion, forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. There is much pain and hurt to be held and if we cannot or will not examine it, it threatens to overtake us. I have seen too many people caught up in the struggle to forgive, wearing the pain like a badge of honour.

I don’t say these things lightly. I have been hurt and abused in my life, some of which goes back to being a small child. The choice to forgive is something that frees me to live. Because in chosing to forgive a past hurt is setting yourself free. To hold on to a past hurt keeps you a prisoner and the person who wronged you continues to have power over you, that they do not deserve.

To forgive does not mean to forget. Rather, it is a choice to stand up, speak up, and let go. I know it’s not easy. But it is most definitely worth it.

Give yourself a gift this thanksgiving…forgive someone who wronged you, whether they have ever apologised or not. In chosing to forgive them, you set yourself free. You deserve that freedom.

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I have realised, far too slowly, that everyone needs support, in one way or ther. I am honoured to be a part of many family’s support systems and it’s been through working with them, that I have finally understood how important it is for me to have a support system. I strongly encourage everyone to have a support system. What works for me, may not work for you, but this list may be a place for you to start…in no particular order…

Medical Team – we are very blessed to be registered with a multi-physician, multi-disciplinary team. We have two family doctors who share a practice, as well as a nutritionist, a nurse practitioner and a social worker.

Chiropractor – our Chiropractor sees us once a week and he has been part of my improving health.

Massage Therapist – Only recently have I been going to a Massage Therapist regularly (every three weeks). She’s been working on my neck and back as I struggle with headaches, tension and stress. The hour I spend with her is well worth the cost.

Therapist – She is part of the inter-disciplinary team at my physician’s office, but she has really led me on the path to discovering who I am. Believe it or not, before I started seeing her, I could not identify my emotions. There are still days when the answer to “how are you” is “I don’t know”, but at least I can name two or three emotions that may be conflicting. And that’s something.

Dentist – My dentist is awesome. She listens when she sees me and after my last appointment recommended a soft food diet and gave me a worksheet to follow of exercises for jaw health. I clench my jaw when I sleep, so I have a night guard, but I also clench my teeth during the day, which causes often debilitating headaches. Depending on how the appointment with the neurologist goes, my dentist will be referring me to a jaw specialist.

Husband – There are many things that my Beloved can do for me. But there are also many things that he can’t do or can’t be for me. And I think that’s awesome. He thinks I’m the best priest in the world. He thinks I’m the most beautiful woman ever. There are times when I wish I could see me through his eyes, because he sees something very different than I do.

Best Friend – She lives in a different community than I do and we get along really well. We’ve known each other for at least a decade and we always tell the truth to each other…even if it’s not what the other one wants to hear. We get together once a month (more often if we can) and there’s no talk about husbands or family allowed. Those take place through email or phone calls. Our face to face meetings are about us, and having fun.

Spiritual Advisor – He lives in a different community than I do and we don’t get together as often as we should. He has been my SA since I arrived in this community and has seen me through good and bad. He is a sage, is very wise and has an awesome sense of humour.

There are other friends who know part of my story, but not all of them. And that’s okay. I am, like you are, a multifaceted gem that is seen many different ways, depending on how the light or shadow plays off each facet. That’s not to say that I act differently with certain people then others, I treat everyone the way I wish to be treated. But not everyone is invited to puddle jump with me…

There are likely people I’ve missed from this list and if/when I think of them, I’ll add them and let you know. But for now, this is the team of people who help me be me. For that I thank God, and am very, very grateful.

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