Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grief and thanksgiving

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Since my last post was about funeral planning, you might get the impression that I'm obsessed with death lately. To assure you and myself, I believe it's not death over which I obsess, but LIFE! I did attend two funerals last week - one for a 91 year old, beloved member of community and of his family, dying at home from natural causes - the other funeral for a vibrant 55 year old single mother succumbing suddenly to congestive heart failure leaving 16 year old twin girls bereaved and orphaned. So, funerals and dying are not subjects over which I obsess, rather events that strike close to home.

During the funeral week in my quiet time, I reflected upon the randomness of living and dying that may or may not have been written into my birth genes ....... purposefully during the week or maybe the word would be mindfully, I counted small blessings that could well just have gone by and been taken for granted. An evening get-together with friends with no purpose except to share our stories, good and bad, to laugh some and to ache some for lost opportunities and new challenges, an appreciation for walks with my crazy little dog, Riley, whose main purpose, I'm sure, is to make me smile every day, my own penchant for heavy duty exercising at the YMCA, acceptance of a volunteer opportunity to share my ability with a child not yet able to read so well, home-prepared meals with my spouse, plus a romantic dinner out - just the two of us, with acquaintances stopping by and asking us about the occasion that brought us out to toast, to whisper and to laugh together at the chef's counter of our favorite restaurant.

The goodness and the randomness of life was further stirred in my mind while listening to a priest's sermon on Sunday, (my apologies to the priest as my broad paraphrasing is probably only remotely close to his direct remarks.) The a.m.'s lesson (Mark 6:14-29) was that of Herod's order for the beheading of John the Baptist. The priest explained, "that time should perhaps be taken to reflect upon the verses preceding and following the story of Herod, i.e., Jesus sending out his disciples with no food, no bag nor extra sandals, etc. and then their return home to discover the beheading of their friend John. Why was the Herod story thrown into the context of Jesus' sending out the disciples?" With no offered answer from the congregation, the priest speculated that perhaps it was God's reminder of the randomness of life (or death) that in the midst of the promising mission of the disciples is dropped this tragic story of John's demise.

The story of Herod became an unexpected life event for Jesus and his troop and is somewhat like our walking through life, unafraid, unsuspecting, and surprised when something so heartbreaking as a death drops into our midst - totally out of context, totally unprepared, we are devastated with our losses. Is it possible to view these events of grief as interruptions, certainly not of immediate joy, but not as burdens fraught with anxiety toward what will come next, rather as we pray for God's presence in the midst of our mourning, we give thanks for the gift of life and love. It seems to me to be the only appropriate response to reflect our lost love and to give thanks for the days ahead for us! Does that make sense to you? I hope so.

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  1. Wow! This is good. I would say that even if I didn't love you.

  2. lots of sense made to me here. i'm sorry you haven't received more responses, because i agree with CP. this is really good and i would say that even if i didn't love you too :-)

  3. My favorite responders - thank you!