Tag Archives: seminary

It never stops hurting, it just hurts less

dad and i mowana

My dad and I at the campground I dug out at Camp Mowana, a few years before he got sick.

My dad and I the summer before he died, a few months after his brain surgery.

My dad and I the summer before he died, a few months after his brain surgery.

Ten years ago today (March 31) was the last time I would see my dad alive. The night before, he rallied for a movie night with me. I don’t remember what we watched; I think it was some kind of thriller. What I do remember is sitting there next to him, holding his hand. We knew his battle with cancer was almost over, he had come home to be in hospice care. There was nothing more that could be done. We just had to wait for death to come and take him away. I remember the sound of his labored breathing, his lungs filled with fluid. I remember his hands, still big and strong, wrapped around mine. I remember knowing how much I was loved. I sat there with him until the movie was over and he had fallen asleep.

The next day, the day that was 10 years ago today, I left my parent’s home in Cleveland to head back to Chicago. It was the start of the new semester, I had to at least pick up my books and talk to my professors. We didn’t know how long my dad would hang on. I explained to him that I had to go back to school to pick up some stuff, but I would be back really soon.

April 1, 2003, my mom said good-bye to my dad, and left for work. She didn’t even make it to her car before the nurse called her back in. After 19 months of fighting, 19 months of radiation, chemo, surgery, speech therapy, occupational therapy, he could fight no more. The ugly, octopus like tumor had taken over his brain. He let go.

I find it interesting he waited for us to leave. Some people wait until everyone is there, some, apparently, wait until everyone is gone.

I don’t remember getting the call. I picked up my books and came back home. Not that having them meant anything. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t even think. I’m amazed I made it home.

My dad’s death broke me. Weight after weight had piled up on my back and his death was the last ounce. I broke under the grief. Four friends and my father gone in a matter of 18 months. I was barely functional. I was blessed by the wonderful people who would come around and tried to pull me out of the seemingly bottomless pool of my grief, or who would come and sit in it with me for a while. The people who would go to Jimmy’s to grab a beer and a grilled cheese sandwich with me and talk about nothing important at all. I am forever thankful. I was also hurt by the dozens of people who only wanted to comfort me so that they could feel pastoral or satisfy some other personal need, the people who whispered about me, and the staff and faculty who ranged from  a few caring souls to many who were oblivious to the few who were so callous they argued with me about the afterlife and tried to make me retake the classes I missed for my dad’s funeral. Pastoral care classes, mind you. I had little patience or grace for the people who said things to me like, “Rejoice that your father is in heaven on the day of the Lord’s resurrection!” Rejoice? Yeah, that’s how I felt. Like rejoicing. I don’t think I could even imagine what rejoicing felt like. Just because I love Jesus doesn’t mean I’m stoked that my dad has gone to hang out with him. I’d much rather have my dad here.

It still hurts. I miss my dad almost every day, but the tears only come sometimes. Like his birthday, holidays, the anniversary of his death, and when I think too long about how much I wish he and my husband could have met. They would have really liked each other.

My dad had a killer sense of humor. Many of my favorite memories involve dinner table performances of Monty Python sketches or recitations of scenes from Ghostbusters. We tried to convince my mom that his headstone should say, “I came, I saw, I kicked it’s ass.” She wasn’t having it. He and I used to go and chase spotlights we saw in the sky. He loved to go to this really good record store near my town to find me music I’d like. He got so excited when he would find some obscure CD I’d asked for. He loved classical music. He introduced me to Beethoven and PDQ Bach. I don’t remember listening to kids music, I remember listening to Pete Seeger and Simon and Garfunkel. Oh, and Prairie Home Companion. He had a beautiful singing voice. When he would sing a solo from the choir loft at church, everyone’s heads would turn. He also introduced me to good beer, and I really wish he was still around to know that I have gained an appreciation for whiskey. He hated messes, particularly my messy obsession with putting ketchup on nearly everything. And my room. Oh, my room. He was incredibly smart, well read and interested in the world. I loved watching the news with he and my mom. Most of all, he loved me. He would do anything for me. He never missed a concert or a play, even with his crazy work schedule. He supported me when I dropped out of college. He gave really good hugs. And I miss him like crazy. Especially today.

He managed to play the worst April Fool’s joke ever. There’s a part of me that wonder’s if he didn’t hold out for April 1. Like, he couldn’t make it until the next Friday the 13th or Halloween, so April Fool’s would have to do. That just sounds like something he would have done.

I miss you, dad. I always will. But, I am beginning to think that isn’t such a bad thing.

 

My mom read this and let me know 2 things. 1) she didn’t actually leave for work, as I had thought, he just thought she had because she said goodbye and went out the door. 2) On the day my dad died, my dog, Rocky, managed to escape and ran through the streets of Hyde Park. I was FREAKING OUT. A good friend of mine put out a call to help find him and one of the LSTC housing staff found him not far from my apartment, eating some Chinese food someone had thrown on the ground. Darn good thing that dog was such a scavenger.

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And this is why it’s dying

I’m on fire right now. Irate. Burning. I went to chapel today. I don’t go to chapel often. Here’s why.

Chapel has been arranged so that it is impossible to sneak in unnoticed if you are late (as I often am).

I remarked to a classmate, “There should be some kind of warning that you can’t sneak into the chapel anymore!” Said classmate was like, “Yeah, right?”

Another classmate said, “Well maybe you should come to chapel more.”

Me: “I would if I liked it.” (I admit, this wasn’t the best statement, but it is very true)

Another classmate (with much snark): “Good luck in your future parish, then.”

Wow. Yup. And that is why the church is dying. I don’t get much out of “traditional” worship, therefore I have no future in the church. To quote Cee-Lo, “Forget you.” Seriously. (Not the person, the attitude.)

Worship is so much bigger than we’re allowing it to be! It doesn’t have to be anything other than preaching the word and administering the sacrament — the form can be so many different things as long as it reflects the community! Acoustic guitars? Great! No instruments? Great! Hip-hop? Go for it! Bluegrass? Right on!

If your community wants to sit still in worship or they want to clap and dance, let them do it. If they want to stay quiet or they want to yell out, “AMEN!” let the spirit move them (and you), let the spirit fill all y’all! If your community wants you to preach for a half an hour, work into it, ask for help!  Yes, I realize I am using a lot of exclamation points!!!!

If we insist on restricting worship to what we know and what we are comfortable with and what we have historically done we are restricting the ways people can encounter God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Yes, I understand the irony in me not wanting to go to a type of worship I don’t like. It’s not even about whether I like it or not. That’s actually not what bothers me. Most of my church life has been in congregations that are fairly traditional and I can hang. It’s the attitude that this is the way it has to be, that this is the only style of worship that should exist or that is right or valid that gets my panties in a bunch. This is a learning institution, for crying out loud! We should be learning about all of the possibilities in worship, experimenting with styles and genres. STUDENT WRITTEN LITURGIES SHOULD BE SUPPORTED!!!! I have had enough conversations with my community here to know that the style of worship we have every week does not reflect the skills, desires or voices of the entire community. There are many people who are fed by “traditional” worship. There are many, many more who are not. This might explain why so few people go. This is also a reason why so few people go in the rest of our society. It’s certainly not all about worship, but the refusal of so many to even think of trying anything different most certainly contributes to our declining numbers.

Get out of the box. God is bigger than the box. It’s fine if you keep your feet in, but get your arms out there and see what the world is telling you it wants and needs. More importantly, see what God is telling you the world needs. I bet you it will be much bigger than traditional hymns and a mediocre sermon on a Sunday morning.

End of rant. For now.

I am, we are 32 flavors and then some.