Guess I really am a minister. When my phone rang at 2:40 this morning I figured it was a wrong number. When I realized a message had been left I woke up enough to play it back. To my surprise, it was someone I had married calling to say that his mom had passed away 40 minutes ago, and that the first thing the entire family had said was, “Call Jude.”
This is really what being a minister is all about. It means that when there’s a deep spiritual challenge, you’re the person they think to call. The only thing is – I feel like ordinary Jude……….
But you know something? Even though my mind was screaming, “I can’t do this,” there was a deeper part of me that knew I had the training and the ability to rise to the occasion to serve this family as they wished to be served. And so – half asleep I stumbled into my office, pulled out my minister’s manual, found the funeral ceremony I had written and never thought I’d have to use, dug out the intake form I had created as part of my manual, both of which suddenly transformed from homework into being a tool. I took a deep breath and called back at 3 AM, because I heard in the voice of the message exhaustion, shock, sadness, confusion, and a little bit of fear.
Definitely not the same kind of call as the wedding calls I so love to receive. This was digging down a bit deeper to the place of truth, to find the words that would comfort if not heal, to listen carefully to find out what this family needed to say, and then to respond with, “Of course I can meet with you and your family tomorrow to create a funeral service.”
Also not like the weddings I have months to joyfully prepare.
And as I hung up the phone, feeling like I had just crossed an imaginary hurdle, I was then left with, “Now what do I do?” And even though I was filled with doubt, there was a wiser part of me that knew I had the ability to go to that place of truth that we all share, to find the words that would comfort if not heal. For the truth is, we did come with owner’s manuals. We are filled with innate wisdom. All we need to do is practice learning where to look. And I guess I was just elected to guide others to that place, so that they, too, can begin to heal and grow.
There’s an odd sort of grace surrounding death. We want to avoid it, yet seem to be inexplicably drawn to it, wanting to understand that which we know will one day will be our experience as well. In the words of the son who called me so soon after his mother’s passing, he felt numb, yet oddly OK. And that’s going to be my job over the next few days, to support this family through their numbness as it turns into grief, doing my best to remind them that in some strange way, everything is oddly OK.
There are parts of life that are so easy to enjoy, to appreciate, and to understand. And then there are those parts that seem to have nothing to offer us other than pain. But when that pain can be turned into riches, suddenly life takes on a deeper meaning than the one we normally see.
I have always been intrigued by Psalm 30 which says, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.” How can that be? Yet, in some way, I know that’s was how life’s transitions are meant to be experienced, but I have been uncertain how to arrive at that place. And now I have others asking me to explain that very same thing. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I suspect the son’s expression of everything being “oddly OK,” holds some of the clues.
Not quite sure I’m up to the task. But I have a family waiting to meet with me in the morning who believes that I am. So I guess I’m going to have to trust that my training has been real, my connection is deep, and that I can trust that to carry me through the next few days to the answers that will lend meaning to what seems so impossible to explain.
And so I surrender into being guided by a truth deeper than what I consciously know, to a place wiser than where I normally live. And my only prayer is that my awkward inelegance will serve to soothe those who hearts yearn to be lead from mourning into joy.
What a career I’ve chosen. I get to shed the beliefs that no longer serve me to uncover the truths that lie underneath while being witnessed by strangers. But when it comes down to it, I guess we’re not really strangers after all.
Much love and many blessings,