Gilda Radner was right: “It’s Always Something”. But for me, as I’ve journeyed through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ I’ve discovered that within every one of those “somethings” there are ‘fine lines’, layers, wheels-within-wheels.
It isn’t just that I lost my husband of 41 years and 361 days. I also lost my best friend. The one who loved me unconditionally, always had my back, knew my heart and mind like no other. Had he, the Supreme Techno-Geek of the Universe been here to help me, my blog and website would have been up and running in thirty minutes, not the eight days and change it took me to do it. He rejoiced with me (with abandon) when I had things to celebrate, and when life handed me crushing blows, he not only held me as I wept, he wept with me. He’s the first person I would have turned to in the wake of this kind of heartbreaking loss, but he is the one who is gone.
It isn’t just that I need to find things with which to fill my days now that I’ve retired and relocated, it’s also about how to make what I do matter. It was an honor, privilege, and sacred calling to speak words of life and faith into the lives of those I served as pastor. The hospital rooms and care facilities I visited, the weddings, baptisms, and funerals I conducted, the committee meetings, office hours, worship, meals, and conversations we shared were holy ground for me. No longer having those deep and rich interactions as part of my daily life has been culture shock. I love doing things “decently and in order”; (I am Presbyterian, after all), but having a perfectly lined up sock drawer and my closet organized by color just doesn’t carry the same weight as personal interactions with real, live human creatures, about things of eternal significance.
Those relationships have, of necessity, been left behind, both by distance and the requirements of my denomination, and yet the imprints they left on my soul did not change or go away. It’s a strange tension having those experiences and people (especially my husband) still be so much a part of the fabric of my life and yet not be able to physically interact with them. Yes, I sense Bill’s spirit and will carry him forever in my heart; yes, I have an incredible storehouse of wonderful memories, but memories only go so far, and some days they don’t go nearly far enough. And no, I can’t just find another pastoral position in my neck of the woods and plug myself in. With thousands of retired ordained clergy here, there simply isn’t a need for trained lay people to pastor churches like there was in my previous location.
I am working at building connections here in ‘the new country’, but it takes time to forge relationships that deep. In the meantime, while it isn’t the same as face to face conversation, creating this blog has provided me with a platform for interacting with those of you who read it that has proved to be very therapeutic. I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed by the words of encouragement, love and support I’ve received, and I’m most grateful for each one of you.
Sewing has also been a balm to my soul. I puzzled over that, until I realized that the process of taking scraps of fabric and stitching them together to make beautiful and useful things mirrors the way my musicians, readers, and I crafted worship services, taking words and music from a multitude of sources and weaving them together in a way that enabled those participating to encounter the Holy. That creative process has always brought me peace and joy. If it works with liturgy and song, with needle and thread, I’m daring to believe it will translate into other areas of my life as well, allowing me to take all the ‘somethings’ and those cherished memories of what I left behind and fashion them into an existence that is meaningful, useful, and beautiful as well.
It’s always something. What is it for you today? And what else might there be within that ‘something’?
Have you -by choice or necessity – left things behind? What was that process like for you? Did you feel angry? Sad? Relieved? Confused? Liberated? Frustrated? Hopeful?
What helped you move forward?
Where do you find meaning and beauty in your life?
In whatever form is most needed and relevant for you this day, may peace and joy be yours.