Thursday, July 25, 2013

Death's companion

On holiday this week, death has not taken a vacation, creeping in unexpectedly and unwelcome.

I was stunned the second day away to learn that a member of my faith community ended her life. I'd just had a conversation with her the afternoon before and the news left me dumbfounded and, beyond worrying about her husband and family, profoundly sad that we'd had such a shallow encounter. Why hadn't I'd known she struggled? What hadn't I taken the time to get to know her better? God, why did you let me make stupid comments about her cute, new hairstyle? Why didn't you give me something thoughtful and life altering to say to her? Then, I was reminded that I had said something important to her several months ago. Something I'd been meaning to tell her. Had I not had that opportunity, I'd be distraught. Boy, I was making this all about me when my real questions was: God, why did this have to happen at all?

There will probably never be an answer. It never was my job to save her; I just wish I'd paid more attention to this person. Gotten to know her and, maybe, listened to her. I am supposed to be a gifted listener. Somehow, I believe others in my community provided that. I am certain her family did. That's the lesson: to listen to everyone, even those that seem prickly. As Quaker's profess, there is that of God in everyone.

Arch Street Meetinghouse, Philadelphia
I was reminded of that yesterday at the Arch Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, the Quaker motherhouse for the states. After depositing my girls at the neighboring Starbucks – they were weary of visiting yet another historic site and we had already stopped in earlier, our visit cut short by times tickets for Independence Hall – I cut my way through a throng of tourists and their loud guide droning on about Quakers. I wanted to say: "Hey, buddy, I'm a real live one and all I want to do is get in this meetinghouse." When I did enter, the woman tending the front desk was engaged in a loud conversation. Well, she wasn't loud, but the visitor was. And long-winded. I never did get a chance to speak to her, so I wound my way around the open rooms and, finally, settled in on the old wooden bench in one section of the worship space that was not roped. And I poured my heart out for the Cincinnati Quaker woman who'd felt life was too much. As I was centering, I heard the Arch Street Quaker tell the visitor what we believe about God being in everyone. It was a gentle reminder and deepened my worship.

Worship helped me let go a little.

I'd seen that my mother had left a voicemail that afternoon and one the day earlier. When I eventually retrieved them, I discovered she and my father and headed to Iowa to be with her sister, who lay in s hospital bed near death.

There it was again. 

My wonderfully creative, caring and silly Aunt Con uncommunicative with my mother at her bedside, her four devoted children and cadre of lively grandchildren nearby with death standing vigil. She's winding down, I thought and shared it with my close friend and Philadelphia hostess. Jean would know. She was with her spouse less than two years ago as he transitioned from this world to the next. Thank God, he wasn't alone, we both confessed. She admitted she was afraid and uncertain of what was happening. Yet she accompanied him lovingly.

Who was with my Quaker friend in Cincinnati? Who is with my Aunt Con right now? I have to believe Spirit in some way or form is death's companion.

• What is my experience of death?
• What has it taught or opened in me?
• When has it intruded on life?
• How has it shaped my spiritual beliefs?
• Where do I believe Spirit is in death and the process of dying?

it was cute and sassy,
so I told her

it was something
I thought she needed
to hear from me

I'm not sure why

I've never been
totally comfortable
with her – we clashed
once when she was new
and I felt unheard

later, when she was
pounced on a bit
carelessly and
zealously, I
wanted to tell
her that it wasn't
her fault

that she was new
and trying to
learn the
unwritten rules

that chat had
a much more
than the one 
over how she looked

wish I'd have
been able to ask her
how she felt

not that it
could have
made a difference

Listen to this post:

No comments:

Post a Comment