Monday, November 3, 2008

How Do I Do It?

It's funny how that question seems to come up more in the midst of death and funerals.

"How do you do it?" someone from the congregation or the family will ask. "How can you make it through these things?"

We had a memorial service this past Saturday for a much-beloved member of the congregation. The night before on Friday, another congregant, who had had two major strokes on Wednesday, was taken off life-support and died peacefully. Then on the Saturday, I received a call at 7:45am that another member who had been in a coma for 4-1/2 years (came through a routine surgery fine, but was left alone in recovery and went without oxygen for 15 minutes) had died suddenly and unexpectedly just a few hours before.

Did the service (what a lovely and loving woman), counseled with the Friday family, went for the grief visit to the Saturday family and wound up planning the memorial service.

Then we had All Saint's Sunday. Baked the communion bread in and around visits on Saturday for those services.

I know the impetus behind such a question--how do I keep from crying, how do I stay calm, why am I not scattered like they feel scattered by death? Part of my answer is the simple logistic that I am less intimately involved in the pain. Another part is that as a pastor, I'm called to be there and to do this. Yet another is that I do feel scattered...I just put that to one side and deal with it at other times when I don't have to look competent and in charge.

But the question also makes me wonder where people turn in the midst of their grief. The widower of the woman whose service I did on Saturday was in church on Sunday after she passed away on Thursday. This is unusual enough that I commented to him that I hadn't expected to see him. His response shamed me: "Where else would I want to be?"

This is true. There is no place that I would rather be. He articulated why I can do these things. Because I spend time in the midst of God. There's no place I would rather be. I could not do this without a continued sense of call. I could not do it without prayer. I could not do it if I didn't know where my HOPE rests.

But it makes me wonder if there should be more people in God's midst...and less people wondering how I do it. Because the same grace is there for them as for me. Perhaps not to the same vocation, but to the same baptism.

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