Life and ministry this week have seemed to have come to a grinding halt in so many ways. Amid the changes and challenges of winter weather, amid the ups and downs of the changing of liturgical seasons, I have said goodbye to a dear friend, whom many of you would have read about in a previous post. Like the changing of the seasons within the hour on the Avalon Peninsula, my emotions, my thoughts, my grief, my being is being transformed each moment of each day.
This month already we have had temperature in the double digits Celsius (okay, only +11 degrees) and we have hit – 16 degrees with a windchill to – 24. This place to me seems quite fickle because at times, the snow that falls melts completely, then returns with an abundance and ferocity with wind and harsh cold.
We have beautiful displays of God’s creation in nature during the winters, with beautiful frosty mornings, or perhaps a nighttime light display as the moon and stars reflect upon frozen landscapes. There is much beauty in creation this time of the year; there is much beauty in life.
The challenge I am facing I liken to the variety of our winter phenomena. A dry crispy cold night can transform into a slushy mess in a few hours. Drifts of snow can make life pleasing for pupils yet disastrous for commuters. Here on the Avalon Peninsula we have become accustomed to experiencing great fluctuations in life and nature.
So I suppose I should have been prepared for the change in me with the death of a dear friend. As Christians we are called to prepare for death and resurrection daily. We are called to transform, to be accepting of the reality that in communion with God we live, we die, and we enter into a new reality. In the past I have held these truths with great comfort, and with a stalwart lack of emotion, just as easily as I adjust to bone chilling colds and slushy messiness.
So I said goodbye to my friend in the public celebration of the liturgy. As her priest, I believed and held on to this. As her friend, I faltered, and lived with the reality of humanity. I cried. In the midst of offering the homily I said the words, feeling emotion and loss and hurt, knowing that there was so much more that I wanted to share and receive and experience with Ruby. I got lost in the temperatures and transitions of the winter of my loss. I was snowbound, unable to dig out of the drifts; stuck on an icy hill with no snow tires or studded tires.
I was spent. No good for family, for God, for anyone. I returned home and was surrounded by those whom I love. I received calls and emails and texts of encouragement and support from near and far, family and friends, confidants and colleagues. I wrapped myself up in my feelings and my emotions. I was together with others and supported by others, yet I also felt so alone.
All should be well. All will be well. I am sure of it, for joy will slowly creep into my reality and bring to check my despair. It is the way of life and of love. As hard as it is, things will change.
With each passing moment and day it seems as if the weather and temperature of my grief changes. I pass her home and want to share with her. I want to print off this blog so I can bring it to her to read as I have done before. The reality has changed. The reality will change again.
Two nights ago it was exceptionally cold in Newfoundland. The wind whistled, the snow cracked as I walked. At times I couldn’t feel my knees, legs or feet. When I returned home after the day’s ministry, I wrapped myself up in our Christmas present from Ruby: a beautiful hand knit Afghan that envelopes me from head to toe. This present was created with the love and care of Ruby, in her last dying weeks. It is a testament to her faith, her determination to respond to a family that loved her and enabled her in her faith and witness.
Slowly the feeling came back into my feet, my hands, my legs, my heart. I breathed easier, thinking of every stitch, every effort of love that Ruby had offered – in this blessed gift, and in her blessed life. I pray I may continue to remain open to love and care, even in the cold and slushy mess of my winter’s grief.