Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gathering Myself on a Sunday Morning

Parents, this might be too hard to read and I wouldn't blame you if you skipped it. However, I had to write it.

I did another funeral yesterday (third one in a week, which is a lot).

Again, it was the grown child of sad, tired parents. The daughter had been sick for many years. No one would have blamed the family if they had put her in a nursing home, but she begged them not to, and Mom and Dad just couldn't do it. So they took care of her as this capable grownup became a needy child again. She suffered so much for so long that everyone was relieved when her time came. Her parents are strong but devastated and exhausted.

I've had to bury too many sons and daughters . Sometimes I remember them all at once.

Many years ago, I ministered to an older couple as they watched their handsome grandson deteriorate from leukemia. With today's treatment, he may have been able to survive, but not back then. I remember that the boy had just hit puberty. Even with the cancer taking him, he was still growing and I could tell he would have been a handsome young man.

I think of my own sons who are tall and strong, looking even handsomer than I imagined when they were a babies (just yesterday). After I do a funeral like the one yesterday, my heart shrieks a silent prayer: Please don't take them, like you took her.

I remember another time I sang at the funeral for a little girl of about five years. I saw her lying in the casket and she looked beautiful, as if she was sleeping. The mother was also beautiful . She couldn't talk or even cry at the ceremony.

I sang at that mother's funeral less than a year later. They found her dead in her home. Her own elderly mother cried out during the service, "God, I can't stand this."

Not long ago, an old man (the one I wrote about before), had to sign a consent form for his grown son to be removed from life support. "I can't do it," he told me. "How can I sign that paper?"

I usually have no answers for these occasions but I considered this thought out loud with him:

"We have to usher our children through difficult times. When they steal from the store, we march them back and make them hand over what they took to the manager. When they're sick, we hold them down so the nurse can give them a shot. We insist they face their fears and then we stand beside them as best we can. Your son has one more thing to face and he's scared. He needs his dad to help him. Can you do it?"

"I don't know, but I'll try," he said honestly.

It's early Sunday morning and it's still dark outside. Some people will come to church glassy-eyed with grief. Others, the young ones, will come feeling hassled, wondering if it was worth wrestling with the kids to get them dressed and out the door. Several will be there harboring private turmoil. And one or two may come with an evil plot to somehow exploit all of them in a bid for some kind of power.

I will stand before all of them and hope to God I'll say something helpful and not stupid.


  1. And they all look to you for some wisdom and strength, and you look to yourself for the same. I hope today you found it.

    When I ushered each of my parents on, that is exactly what I said to myself. I have to love them enough to find the strength to do this one last thing for them. Love can be hard. ~K

  2. For some reason this post reminds me of the recent movie, Up In The Air. I think it's having a job that requires you to be encouraging when there's almost nothing encouraging to say. I like the way you handled it.

  3. K--Thank you for caring heroically for your parents. I've seen enough to know that not everyone has the courage to give this to their loved ones.

    Mike--while I rarely have much to say at times like this, I like to think there's some hope--it's just that most of us have to discover it on our own. It can't really be taught through lecture.

  4. I don't even have a snarky remark to make you laugh.

    I can't imagine what the parents are going through.

    I can't imagine what you're going through.

    I just hope you are doing well.

  5. Sistermoon, it feels good just to hear from you. I'm doing fine and I hope you are too.