Saturday, January 30, 2010


"Is my son dead?"

"Yes," I said. "Just a few minutes ago."

The man is old, somewhat older now than a few hours ago. He had been expecting it, but there's no way to get ready for this.

The family called to ask me to go tell him the dreadful news. They were far away. Because of his health, they did not want him to hear the news on the phone while he was alone.

He's a tough talking man with an outrageous sense of humor and a tender, as well as a fragile heart. He's never been to church but he's one of my people. I've only known him a year, but I love him deeply.

"You want some coffee or tea? Maybe some milk?" he said abruptly.

"No, I'm fine."

I sat as he told me stories of a son who'd done some bad things, but the father knew his grown child was good.

"It ain't RIGHT!" An old lion's brief roar.

"No." I whispered.

I have no magic words at a time like this. Nothing can be said that will make this better. It isn't right.

There are too many people in my church who've had to bury their children.

I just got back from his house. My back aches like I've been doing heavy lifting. I can't help thinking about my sons. If they were taken from me, how would I go on? And how will he?

It puts the other problems I have with this church in perspective.

This is the work I've been called to do. It's dreadful, but there's beauty. I can't explain it but this is the work I'm honored to do, and it's why I'm still a minister.


  1. CG, there is something noble and right about helping people through their life passages, but I cannot imagine anything worse than losing a child. Even reading about it, let alone watching it, makes me shudder. No, It is not right. I am glad he did not have to be alone today. ~K

  2. K, it makes me shudder, too.

    Daniel, not really trying to tweak you here, but the help I get to do this part of the job feels like a Spiritual presence.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story, Clergy Guy. Powerful stuff.

  4. I'm telling you right now, if something were to ever happen to my child, I will send you my phone number, address, and a plane ticket up here. Of course, my address will be at the local psych hospital, but there is no other clergy that I'd ever talk to besides you.

    You're a good man, Charlie Brown.

  5. I've done this kind of work too, standing with the family while we watched their loved one die, or telling some young children that their mother was now dead. Whether it's the presence of God, or something bigger than than the whittled down God we heard about as kids, there is definitely some kind of spiritual, enhanced awareness that makes time stop and transports you above it to a much grander and nobler state. The exact same thing happened at the birth of my son. The sadness/elation factors were different, but the sense of awe and massively expanded "perspective" were indescribable in strictly logical terms. Logic can be a path out of superstition and nonsense, or it can be a cage that blocks awareness of something far more sophisticated. --JagWar

  6. Thanks, Mike

    Jagwar, your words sound steeped in experience. Come to think of it, I had a similar feeling when I heard the sound of my childrens' heartbeats when they were still inside their mother.

    Sistermoon--that's quite a compliment. I'm honored, no kidding.

    All seriousness aside, if you're still feeling generous, why don't you send all that stuff now? I'll bring the wife and kids, see the sights, and I'll leave you some comforting notes in a sealed envelope--you can open it up the first time you have reason to feel sad. I'm packing my bags now.

  7. Thank God for ministers like you ... ministers who know when silence is the only appropriate response.


    (on a logistical note, it doesn't look like all the comments that you're responding to are showing up in the comments on the blog ... maybe you didn't approve them?)

  8. I appreciate the kind words--wish it were true for me all the time. I've had a few times recently when it wouildn't have hurt to keep my mouth closed more than I did.

    Logistics--unless I missed one accidently, the only comments I'm leaving out are the duplicated ones. Every time I publish someone's comment it comes around and gets submitted again. Did I leave one of yours off?