April was hard. I mean so hard that I didn't spend any time shopping. Seriously. I've gone shopping when I've had fever and staples in my body. This was some kind of April. Despite the usual frenzy of week day work at a church, and the weekly Sunday responsibilities and preparations, we also had Holy Week and Easter day too. Don't get the wrong! I love all of those extra liturgies, and by love I mean I'm still a little tired!
Throw in a 23 hour trip to Boston to bury a beloved friend and colleague and the death of my stepfather, and...wow I could seriously use a retreat...and by THAT I mean......I may need to have an overnight sleepover in the nearest Nordie's to regroup fully. (I feel like I could have a whole other side business working with extroverts who like to shop and who pray. Most retreat centers I've attended are lovely, restorative places, but could be improved with a little shopping center adjacent!...but I digress)
It's taken me this long to reflect on the events of the past month, the odd convergence of things, the juxtaposition of life and death, and I'm sure I've only just begun. (eww...now I have that Carpenters song in my head! )
April was one of those months in which I was reminded again of the sort of "luminous web" connections between all of us, and between the Holy. Delicate, fragile, and yet fiercely tough threads that connect us all. (Barbara Brown Taylor, a preaching GENIUS wrote a book I couldn't understand called The Luminous Web.) Celtic spirituality talks about "thin places"...those places in our lives where earth and heaven seem to intersect...even if just for a moment. Usually in Celtic spirituality that's about physical places...like some gorgeous setting in Ireland or Stonehenge or the semi annual shoe sale at Nordie's...ahh... (OK I'm not really THAT obsessed...just hopping to get a chuckle out of the 3 people who read this blog).
Flying to Boston on April 20th to preach and preside at my dear friend Catherine's funeral, memories flooded at an almost unbearable rate. How had our lives connected, and connected so deeply, so quickly, when on paper we could NOT have been more different? But there I was, doing what she had asked of me when she first learned that her brain cancer was beyond cure. She and I loved the Episcopal Church, loved Good Shepherd Austin in particular. And somehow I managed, while looking at her precious mother, to say the words from the prayer book...words that give me hope when nothing else does.... "for to your faithful people Lord, life is changed not ended." And then I flew home...exhausted, but so grateful.
Sunday April 22nd would have been the day that my precious husband and I visited my stepfather, also dying of a brain tumor. We began a pattern of making the hour drive every other Sunday. But Sunday April 22nd I had just hit my limit and so, after trying my best to be "sparkly" at my parish on that the 3rd Sunday of Easter, I went home and slept...hard.
So on Sunday April 29th, an odd 5th Sunday of the month, Rob and I drove the hour to go see Arthur. Our family has called him "Awa" since my now 19 year old nephew was 2 and gave him that name. Awa and my mama began dating when I was 19. They married 25 years go. Arthur was kind and gentle, expressed love to me and my siblings in a way that, at least for me, was more easily interpreted than the way my dad did (does).
Some strong feeling/voice/spirit/"deal"/ told me to hold Arthur's hand a lot that afternoon. And Arthur cried; I had never seen that. Arthur cried and asked me about Heaven, and told me about "things" (visions?) he was seeing, and pictures he wanted to paint...pictures that sounded like Jacob's ladder, earth and heaven united. And he asked me if I thought he had been good. And I could scarcely breathe as I answered "absolutely!" And Rob seconded that, enthusiastically. And I thought about how true it was that Arthur was "good"...and I thought about the power of that moment and how much we ALL need someone to hold our hands and tell us we are "good." And I knew in that deepest of places that there is something....something...that connects, and I don't begin to know exactly how to explain it. And sometimes I'm so tired and sad and busy that I completely ignore it. But there is some thread, and for a moment on a warm April afternoon I caught a glimpse of it shining in the lobby of a nursing home in Cameron Texas.
We left Arthur and mama at 4:30 pm. At 7:30 am my sister called to tell me Arthur had died.
For to your faithful people O Lord, life is changed not ended. Alleluia.