It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, we were supposed to have time.
However, as it became starkly clear to me, we were in fact sitting at her funeral, whether we liked it or not.
I was emotionally at one of the lowest points in my life. She had 2 years before this, been widowed by her husband. I had walked that journey with her, in the hospital, to the casket, from the grave side, to her home where I scrubbed her toilets on hands and knees. Now 2 years later, I had just recently wrapped up a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education where I worked as a Chaplain Intern at a local hospital and it was safe to say, that at 28, adulthood was hitting me like a freight train.
All of the things that gave my life meaning were now relative and up for debate. You can’t really look at life the same guarded way when you’ve danced with death’s soon to be partners as many times as I have.
This is the state that I entered into her Holiest of Holy Catholic churches. I brought my guitar because Father Thomas said I could play the song I had written about her. Father Thomas was from Africa and he had such a thick accent that when he introduced himself it sounded very much to the uncultured American ear as if he was introducing himself as, “Father Dumbass.” Which some present at the funeral really got a kick out of, especially when he began referencing “doubting dumbass” in his eulogy. Was it immature of us? Sure, but people in grief often revert to the things that give them comfort and as soon as a family member pointed it out to me, it was something to smile about amidst the complete and utter grief which encased me in itself, like a barbie doll box. I looked fine and dandy to the random passerby but who knows how many silent screams under the cellophane wrapping?
I’ll never forget the feeling of that day, being a former Baptist and now transient from my church home who wouldn’t ordain women. In her church, her home and while the choir beautifully filled the room with their singing, “One Bread, One Body, One Lord of all.” I felt myself rising from my seat, almost in a trance like state. I tripped over and banged into my guitar, it let out a melodic yelp. Father Dumbass shot me a downcast stare. I didn’t care, I felt that at least I would have the Eucharist, an all too familiar and mostly absent companion as of late, to comfort me. I wouldn’t be so lucky, I was met by crossed arms and though the woman who denied me, later offered me extra bread at lunch, I lamented to anyone who would listen to me how terrible to be singing about “one bread, one body” and then to be denied the bread/body of Christ by those who themselves were hypocritically singing such a beautiful hymn. “Don’t offer me that bread when you won’t even give me the living bread.” I said defiantly, after she had walked away, behind her back, like the good person of faith that I am and was. I am making fun of myself at this point and I’m just going to say so because in the written form, sometimes these things get lost in translation.
It’s been 3 years since she died and I still miss her.
We thought we had time, she was supposed to be with us at least another 10 years.
She welcomed me into her family when I married into it. She and her husband were supportive of any path my feet might land on. I miss her support, I miss her love, I miss her laugh. It was like having a non-critical version of my mother’s mother alive and with me again.
I loved my maternal grandmother very dearly, critiques and all but I have to say that Grandma 2.0 was a pretty rad upgrade. I didn’t only think of her as a grandmother, sort of also like a mother. One day she took me to buy my first rosary and all the salesgirls thought she was my Mom. She never had children and I think now looking back, it made her happy to think of me in that way. I scoffed the day it happened but only because I grew up with teenage parents and I spent nearly 30 years with everyone asking me if my mom was in fact my sister. I didn’t scoff because I’d be ashamed of the thought of her, then 60 something, being my mother, I would have been and would still be quite proud if someone thought that. I never got to explain that scoff to her.
We thought we had time but now I see, we only get moments and even those aren’t guaranteed for any of us. Sometimes, I hate how we only get moments in life and we do our best to try to convey who we are, why we are the way we are and how we feel and none of it’s fixed. It’s all so fluid and ever changing. How do we ever really know another? How do we ever really know ourselves?
Well, we know through stories, from others, from the narratives we ourselves lug around in metaphorical suitcases and we unpack them from time to time and see if anyone near by can help us find a place for the contents. However, we don’t often realize how much of what we’ve experienced is distorted, when it happens and when we recall it. Reaching this space, of acknowledgment of un-knowing can be overwhelming and scary. I was so scared when I began to open up to these insights. Then, over time, I found this immense freedom, each day then is a re-birth, a new chance. What do we do with it? Well, first of all we can’t look too far out or we’ll feel as if we’re drowning in a sea of possibilities.
Eventually after feeling like drowning for close to two years, I found myself again drawing on the words of Jesus found in Matthew 6, “and can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
We thought we had time but now I know, we only had and have today.
The hope that now pulses through and sustains me is that we might all have the capacity to have Grace with each other. I think this not just because in my spiritual journey I’ve evolved into a super duper liberal Universalist, although that can’t really be denied but also because maybe there are many things we’ve yet to fully understand, maybe we won’t ever understand.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Perhaps myself or you will be or have been on the receiving end of a scoff that truly wasn’t about us. Perhaps we’ve experienced worse by those we were supposed to be able to trust. Perhaps that will be a future event.
Don’t get too worried about it, take it a day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time.
Whatever you do, don’t worry.
Hang in there.
Keep going, it will (very likely) get better.