Tonight I was going to post Nanny Nanny Poo Poo II because with Session meeting over I am now officially on vacation. YES!!!
And I will get to that post, but I wanted to take some space to reflect on what happened earlier today. I received a phone call earlier this afternoon from the parishioner of a friend of mine in a town about 45 minutes away. The parishioner's daughter lives near me and is dying of cancer. Today she was given weeks to live, could I please come visit.
Many of you who read these posts are clergy so I know you will understand and not judge that although in voice I agreed, my selfish zone was more focused on one final meeting, packing, other minor tasks and getting out of town.
As all of you would do too, I sucked it up and I headed over. I was nervous because when the best club in your bag is your 'sense of humor driver' it is intimidating to think that your visit to a dying stranger may leave you relying on your less trusty 'theological sand wedge' or 'small talk putter'. I reminded myself to be myself and to rely on a ministry of presence.
Once there tension lifted almost as soon as I walked in the room and we talked, we laughed, we cried, we prayed... I cussed. Yup, you read that right. Briefly told, she broke down and wondered what she had done wrong to deserve this and I told her that was bullshit (I of course told her WHY that is bs, but you get the point).
It turns out her step-father was a preacher in a more conservative, evangelical denomination than mine that puts its focus a bit more on works and a little less on grace. She has been to funerals where the deceased were never mentioned, but the altar call was. She doesn't want that. She has been to funerals where the preacher said, "I never met insertname, but..." She doesn't want that.
I told her that I would say, "Tori and I go way back..."
After I left her side her mother followed me out and told me that she would send payment to the church for my time. This caught me by surprise and I of course refused. She insisted and I tried to find the balance between not wanting her to feel as if she had insulted me and not wanting her to pay me money for something I am Called to do.
Finally I told her that if she felt it were necessary she should donate it to her church but "please know that being invited to stand with a family while they are engaged in the biggest battle of their lives and in their time of greatest grief and sorrow is an honor and a privilege."
I meant it. And I wondered as I drove away, how often - even in ministry - do we not only get to have these moments of privilege but do we also get the opportunity to redeem an entire profession... and maybe even the way one dying woman can now look at the One who created her and has loved her and will welcome her.