I want to tell you about my morning. I tried to get up extra early to make a batch of fudge for Gina and get a care package ready.
A friend of mine is driving to Victoria, leaving tomorrow and offered to take a box to Gina. I was up early but not quite early enough so I landed into church 10 minutes late, however I was really happy with the care package. Being late I didn’t have time to look over the bulletin to check out what was slated for hymns and stuff. I really enjoyed the service. A theme for worship came from the story of Esther, the phrase “for such a time as this” was well explored and I had new resolve to do what I feel called to do in this time. There was a beautiful piece of music that really brought the message home. So….I was feeling pretty centred when Susan announced the closing hymn. At that point I believe my mask had the effect of turning off any censoring I was inclined to do. I heard her announce it, I looked down at the bulletin to confirm that is what I heard and I said out loud, “well fuck.” I swear too much. I do. I know it and I admit it. I have not enough resolve to do much about it. But looking back on this moment I have decided to have compassion on myself. What information was held in that uttering? Those two words that missed the loop around my brain and came straight from my guts? I think its something like this…. I am in the provincial territory of grief and I am on a calm lake but there is word of a storm brewing. That hymn equated to someone rocking my boat. It was so surprising. I have decided to talk about it because maybe its valuable for people who find words easy to document the journey of grief. A friend of mine is in a similar boat, except that having lost a child his lake is hardly ever calm, but from that boat that rocks to and fro and splashes him all the time, he writes back to the rest of us on shore to say, “this is what its like”. I find him brave. So, here are some words, maybe sent to those on other lakes in the province of grief, is this what its like for you too?
The hymn was VU #639, it will forever be a legendary number in my mind, because back when I was a brand new minister I would go over to our organist’s house for visits. We might have been at the care home for a service and land back at her place for tea and some ultra delicious baking. Her name was Mae and she was a profoundly good musician. Invariably we would end up in her music room, she would search a song from her memory and see if I could sing it. She had memorized several of the new hymns in our then new hymn book before macular degeneration affected her. Number 639 was one of them. She loved it. It was peppy and she rocked it, every time. It is called “One More Step Along the World I Go” and the repeating line is “and its from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.” I have always loved being with older people, I love tea and baking, I love music and I needed a Grandma presence in my life. My times with Mae as co-worship leaders at the care home, with the debrief after, were precious to me. Mae passed away maybe 10 years ago now. It was darn hard. I believe, if I remember right, that I sang that song at her funeral. I have sung it in church many times since Mae passed. I ALWAYS think of her but never before have I been prompted to swear.
It turns out my body is pretty smart. I am most definitely in the territory of grief and there is a storm brewing and I maybe inherently know that I can hardly tolerate any rocking of the boat with that storm on the horizon. If I had let myself finish the sentence maybe I would have said, “oh fuck, here it comes, I’m going under.” I think what my heart and guts were keeping track of was what my brain had been working on that morning. I made fudge today. I did so knowing it was the exact recipe I made exactly one year ago today when I was helping Mom and she wanted to make a gift for my niece who was being confirmed at Church.
I was wearing my Mom’s robe as I cooked, not because I was wallowing in my memories but because I wear it every day, it is so perfectly comfortable. I have so many pictures of her in it though.
I smelled my Mom’s perfume in the house randomly this week. So did one of the kids. Many anniversary days are coming up in the next few weeks. I think I am working hard in my mind to manage the implications of just everything. As I headed off to church today I was surprised at how well I was doing. Then that hymn. Here is the thing that got me through. First, I still love the song, so I just threw myself into it. Second, it was funny. I am an ordained minister and I was definitely misbehaving by uttering such words in church. I don’t get rebellious very often so I was enjoying being bad with no chance of being caught. (Until I made this confession anyways.) There are some good side effects of masks!
What do I take from all this?
-I think I understand just a little bit better why it is that people avoid church sometimes. Some of our big moments happen within those four walls. Some of the music gets connected to our most joyful and painful times and then random connections happen too and it just gets to be a lot, especially when we don’t know what will trip us up and when.
-The truth is always going to show itself.
-There are life preservers on board any boat, at least there should be. Is humor one of them? I think it was for me today.
-Contrary to what many people have told me, God does not use lightening bolts in church to discipline people. I said that four letter word and it appears I am okay. Instead, I was led to be curious about myself and compassionate with myself. If I can keep that up I think I might just get through this.