This afternoon I was in my Intro to Worship class we were talking about weddings, funerals and rites of passage. We started with funerals. Two chaplains came in to talk to us about being present in the process of dying, the funeral and after the funeral when grief really sets in. We covered a little bit of how to order a funeral and work in non Christian settings. They also covered what hospice was. If you know me well, you know that I didn't learn anything new. I am very familiar with what it is to be the family caring for the dying in hospice. I have done it several times. I have attended many funerals for ones dear to my heart. I even "presided" at my Grandmother's since she held no one religious belief. Surprisingly none of this talk brought up any of my junk from my life experience. I thought I am handling this well.
Then they passed around a book about helping children to process their grief. I flipped through it reading just little blurbs. There was one about 3 children of a man with brain injuries who felt they couldn't do anything to make their dad feel better. Then with some inspiration they learned to take turns rubbing lotion on their dad's paralyzed arm and tell him about their respective days. For some reason this brought me right back to the moment when I first saw my dad after he went into a coma (a little aside as a child I thought it was acoma). I can see it so vividly in my head. All the wires and tubes and my dad helpless in the bed and then he responded to our voices. They thought if he heard our voices he would pull through and he did, I don't know in retrospect if that was the right decision. Especially when you consider he would suffer another ten years before his death. I remember the male nurse, which was unusual in 1988. I was seven years old and I tell you it was like I was transported back there to the smells, sounds and sights. I have known for a long time that this image was burned permanently into my memory. I just haven't "seen" it in a long time.
I became immediately sick to my stomach. My eyes welled up just a little. I got the tears under control quickly and left the room. I called my husband to ask him to meet me after class with pretzels and to pick up some equipment I had just acquired.
It is strange how these things can sometimes catch you in some unexpected moment. I am grateful that I have learned how to handle these moments over the years. Maybe sometime this week I will sneak over to the chapel with my burned in memory and let it all out before God. It is a much more appropriate time than in the middle of class.
Today I am grateful for all the days I have lived, happy and heartbreaking.
May you be blessed with gratitude for what simply is.