As we live into this Easter season of resurrection, the presbytery is also experiencing and grieving the losses of pastors and prominent members. Grief is a puzzling and unpredictable emotions we all experience. Grief is a result of loss. It comes from being attached to someone (or something) that is no longer available to us as it was before. As an internal feeling, grief is not bound by time. There is no clock for the grief process. It is as individual and unique as we are.
Congregations experience grief when a pastor leaves or retires. Often strong relationships are established. Many life experiences are shared. People have come to know, trust, and love their pastor. When the presbytery separation agreement must be enforced, it appears inhuman and insensitive. But it is the best way presbyteries have found to help churches deal with separation, while providing space for new pastoral and leadership relationships to be created.
My Mom died April 15th 2011. Mother’s Day is the second Sunday of May. Her birthday is June 1. Each year I experience what I call the trifecta: death day, Mother’s Day, birthday. Sometimes (like this year) I don’t even think about her death day. Then, for some reason I find myself sad. I began having dreams of Mom, and it all makes sense.
As I prepare announcements, attend memorials and funerals during my trifecta season, I am even more sensitive to the dimensions of grief. My grief reminds me of my love. I loved my mother, and she loved me. It is because we share love that we experience grief. My grief reminds me of my connection to all people. It is a grief and love that is understood by others who have loved and suffered loss.
Death makes life precious. We build relationships in life, knowing that a time of separation will come. The grief is a reminder of the love. In her excellent book, Bittersweet, Susan Cain writes, “We should greet every morning with the reminder that we may not see it again. All these practices are to help us treat our lives and each other as the precious gift they are.”
What happens if we walk through the day meeting and greeting people as if they are a precious gift? How can we lean into the love we have for one another while we are still alive? I wonder what happens if we use this season of resurrection as a time to reflect on hope, love, and appreciation of the precious gift we are to one another. I appreciate you and the good work we are doing in the Presbytery of Chicago. Thank you for allowing me to have a share in your life.
Rev. Craig M. Howard