November 3, 2013

Pastoral Letter

At various moments along our life journey we need hospitality; a welcoming and healing place. Hospitality, hospital and hospice all share the same root. Our understanding and experience of life’s journeys and transitions, particularly death, have changed over time.

In the film “Places in the Heart,” which takes place in the 30’s, a sheriff is accidentally killed. The neighbors bring the body to his house and place it on the dining room table. His wife (Sally Fields) begins the process of cleaning him up for the wake and funeral. I remember my father told me of the death of his grandmother, in the same era, at his home. Death was processed at home, not at the hospital or mortuary. When I was little, that sounded pretty “gross” to me.

In the intervening years, dying became the province of professionals and medical facilities. For many, the journey of death became unseen and unfamiliar, something to be avoided. However, in more recent years, with the emergence of hospice facilities, palliative treatment and other forms of “hospice care,” this life transition has reclaimed some of its intimacy in the sacred pilgrimage of life.

The emergence of care providers, paid and volunteer, family and para-family, has blessed many of us with company through difficult transitions with loved ones. I know that Trish and I appreciated the support and encouragement of the hospice care team who provided counsel, coaching, daily assistance and wisdom through my dad’s life transition in our home.

Today, we are honoring both the loved ones we have commended to God as they have completed their race, and also those who provided care during the final turn. I am grateful:

  • for the tenderness, that cleans and wipes and bandages.
  • for the gentleness of spirit of those who dress and comb hair and read the paper and sing.
  • for the humility of those who calm anxious family and provide reassurance.
  • for the patience of those who wait and watch and are simply available to provide a word of comfort or a cup of water.

Today, we give thanks for the opportunity to greet the spirit of God’s healing and renewing love at every turn and transition.

Pastor Mark