Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Hate Vacations

I’m taking the week off.

I think I needed it. Five funerals last month. Impossible tasks looming in front of me. A couple of people wanting to start a fight with me and I’m feeling more than willing to engage. Very few quiet moments, and when I do find one, I start crying.  So yeah, a little time off is appropriate.

But the first day (yesterday) is a little dicey. My wife is tense and trying to finish taxes and I’ve just had the same conversation with her for the third time on something. It’s raining buckets and I can’t go outside. I get a call about a death in the community. I don’t need to do the funeral but I did need to make a visit.  And there were a couple of teenagers I needed to speak to because I was worried about them. 

Late in the night, I get a snippy email from a church member about a scheduling problem.  I wrote her that we would keep all our obligations, that I would work it out with her when I got back, and I refrained (admirably, I think) from calling her a bitch. I also sent communiqu├ęs to the secretary and a staff member, not to let themselves be stampeded by this person while I was away. 

Last night I dreamt one of their former ministers, a woman who was much beloved (I like her too) came back while I was away, and I could hear people talk of how they missed her terribly.

Then I dreamed I came back from vacation and someone had taken all of the furniture from my office.

After careful self examination, I’ve made a clinical diagnosis: I’m crazy. 

And tonight, I’m taking a valium. 

Maybe two.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Knowing People I've Never Met Before

Another funeral today. If you’ve read this blog you know I do a lot of them.

Today’s was a gravesite service. The funeral director called me last night because the family didn’t have a church. And they didn’t know who to call.  The director called me because I’m his pastor and he knows I won’t say anything hurtful or too stupid.

I didn’t know the woman’s name when I drove to the cemetery. I didn’t even know it was a woman. She was elderly and had been sick for a long time and it was a mercy that she passed.

They had picked a song to be played on a stereo and I decided it should be first. It was a sweet sad country piece, and it did the job it was supposed to do.   I watched tears fall. I saw people get up from their seats to go sit close to someone they loved. Hands reached out and arms wrapped around the shoulders of another. 

You can see things if you know what I know. I saw people who worked hard but were poor. They drank too much. In younger days they partied a lot, but not so much anymore because they were tired. I saw they had unresolved conflict between each other, had lashed out and hurt each other in the past, but they still loved each other and would share their sadness with each other today.

My God, I felt my emotions rising and I thought I was going to lose it before I even stood to speak to these strangers. 

But they weren’t strangers. I’ve known them all my life. I tamped down my feelings and stood to be their minister. 

I may not see any of them again but at that moment, I loved them.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Power of a Kiss

Recently, a woman visited my church who knew me in another context. She came because she was in great emotional pain, and she knew she was welcome in my church. When she came forward for Communion, I put my arm around her shoulders because she looked so worn out, and she leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. 

She never kissed me before and hasn’t since, and no one else ever kissed me at Communion but it seemed appropriate considering her circumstances.

In the fall, when I left my son at college, I almost couldn’t bear it.  I put my arms around him and kissed him on the cheek, even as my eyes began to leak. Since he was a baby, he has felt my furry face brush his cheek as I pressed my lips against him.  When I left him I realized it had been too long since the last time I had kissed him.  I decided right then to do it more often with both my sons. 

Then I remembered the feel of my dad’s whiskers when he kissed me. 

You know what I wish? I wish it were okay to give the people I most care about a kiss on the cheek, and I wish we didn’t have to wait until moments of parting or great pain.

In some cultures this is perfectly acceptable and I notice that Hollywood people kiss each other all the time, but I don’t live there.  Around here, a guy doesn’t normally kiss another guy on the cheek, and he sure doesn’t kiss another man’s wife. 

The woman who kissed me that day is not attracted to me, nor I her, but it was powerful and it made me tear up. For the life of me, I cannot put into words what exactly transpired in that moment of contact.  Well, maybe I can: desperation, loneliness, gratitude, love,….

No, I can’t really find the words.