“I tell you life is sweet, in spite of the misery…
There’s so much more. Be grateful”
Even the good days in ministry can have their hard edges. Today was one of those days.
Churches like the one I serve are one of the final places where a person can organically experience intergenerational community. We’re not a place that’s been created by finely-tuned, highly specific, targeted marketing.
We share gestures, words, and rituals that have been repeated thousands of times in this place. We create new traditions, stretch our creativity and our tolerance for creativity together. We are community.
We’re a wide spectrum of belief, health, socioeconomic status, and yes, age. There are darling babies to dedicate and exhausted bodies to tend to.
Beauty and sadness intersect in those moments I spend with folks who have made it to a certain point–especially when they trust you enough to tell you, sometimes with confidence, sometimes in confidence–that they’re ready.
Ready for whatever comes next.
There are still laughs to share, stories to tell and re-tell, and in some cases, daily exercise classes and ice cream indulgences that bring joy to the day.
But they’re ready.
Today, a Wednesday–the day I set aside for pastoral visits, I was a witness to a change in someone’s life: not a hurdle crossed, but a final lingering ability lost–gone, forever.
He had told me recently that he’d been “ready to go” for a while. His tone was matter-of-fact then. But today, as he confronted a life short one more pleasure, one more joy, one more touchstone to the past, his eyes welled with nearly sightless tears.
“It’ll never be the same. However long that’ll be.”
These words landed hard on my ear. I couldn’t let them go.
We told stories. I took his hand. I prayed with him, clumsily, gingerly, inarticulately.
In my head, I wished for more perfect words, pitch, tone. Wished I was a better listener.
Our goodbye was longer than usual. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Perhaps not.
As I left his room, I cupped his heavy words in my hand and held them close. It wasn’t my grief, but I decided to carry it with me.
The air was crisp, the sun bright–my favorite sort of spring weather. I rolled down the sunroof, put on my sunglasses, shivered just a tiny bit, then turned up the volume to a song from my college years.
This is what we do on good, hard days.