If I had to choose three words to describe my life for the past six months they would be sickness, death, and grief.
It started in mid-October when my mother went to the hospital, and my brothers and I realized that her long life was coming to an end, and it continues until now with Joe’s death, and, of course, I know it is far from over.
I have been asked so many times through all of this how I am doing, and I really don’t know how to answer that, except to say I’m here. I’m grateful to have had the luxury of this time off since Joe’s illness began and after his funeral. I’ve been busy tending to the endless business of death, doing things around the house, and honestly, some days just sitting on the couch in my pajamas. I didn’t realize how much I needed that time.
But it is definitely time for me to be back. First because I have missed all of you. And also because I need some routine and structure back in my life. Sitting on the couch in pajamas is only good for so long.
Coming back brings its own new aspects of grief. As I was getting ready to leave on Monday I reached for the phone to tell Joe I was on my way home and ask what he wanted for dinner.
And Joe is so intertwined into the life of this place that being back makes me miss him in new ways. He should be sitting on that back pew with Tom Harney; he should be sitting on the bench in front of the church petting Dunstan (yet another loss); he should be in Sunday School and at coffee hour talking sports with the guys. And he should be here for me to bounce ideas off, and discuss whatever is going on at church. He loved St. Dunstan’s and I’m going to feel his absence here for a long time.
But I’m also coming back full of gratitude for so many people. I can’t name everyone, but let me name a few.
First, the person who was most impacted by my absence, or at least had the most work to do, our senior warden Bob Longino. Bob told the bishop last week that we have been friends for 50 years. He’s wrong about that; it has only been 48. He has done a remarkable job in my absence, making sure things ran smoothly and that I was getting what I needed to take care of Joe, Joseph Henry, and myself. Bob, I have valued your friendship for decades, but never more than the last 3.5 months. My deepest gratitude to you.
Next, I want to thank my clergy friends who made it possible for me to be away so long. First, Maggie, who not only did her share of Sunday mornings, but also a funeral, and the brunt of Holy Week. Maggie, thank you for your years of friendship and all you have done.
Next Deborah Silver and Bill Deneke, who hardly qualify as guest priests anymore. They have become a part of this community, and also my dear friends.
Kim Jackson and Colin Brown both volunteered to come help when needed, and did great jobs.
And finally, Bishop Wright, who truly was a pastor to Joe and me, bringing us communion in the hospital, checking in with me regularly, officiating at Joe’s funeral, preaching here on Good Friday, and regularly lecturing me on the importance of taking care of myself and learning to ask for help. (I’m working on that.)
Next, I thank Claudia and Cameron. When I’m away it always means extra work for them, which they did superbly, with help from Rhea.
And finally, thanks to all of you. The countless cards and texts and emails and calls. The prayers for all of us. Reaching out to Joseph Henry. And the food. Lots and lots of food. Between the meals brought to our house and many lunch and dinner outings, I don’t think I’ve cooked yet in 2023.
And my deepest thanks to those who showed up right when I needed someone — especially those last awful days in the hospital. You’ve given me your shoulder while I’ve cried, sat with me while I made the most difficult decision of my life, and held us up when we were crumpled with grief.
Throughout this whole ordeal the support and love we’ve felt has been what has sustained us.
So maybe sickness, grief, and death are not the only themes of the past six months. The other theme has been love — the love that you have shown all three of us.
I chose our offertory hymn for today because of its refrain — “God is love, and where true love is, God’s own self is there.”
Time and time again in the darkest, most difficult moments of our lives, true love has been there. God has been present to us through all of you. I am forever grateful.