Some years ago, a clergy colleague of mine stated that he could not do what I do because I was around death so much. He asked me how I found life working as a Chaplain. As with all things, I guess it depends on how one defines the words before us. How do you define life? Is a definition of life that excludes death an authentic definition? I responded by saying that I found much more life in the honesty and intimacy that comes in dying, grief, and being present to those in the last portions of their lives, than I ever found in a council or a committee meeting. Besides, the breadth and the depth of life (as far as age is concerned), is all present in the staff with whom I serve.
I share this because it feels like we have experienced a lot of death in the last several weeks. (Moreover, not from COVID I might add.) From the Wyndstone to the Willows, Elders who meant a great deal to us have died. I recall a comment our CEO, David Trost, made at a memorial service several years ago. An elder he had known for a long time died, and as he shared his memories, he noted that we care for all the elders with love and compassion. He went on to note that we are not supposed to have favorites and then he said the elder’s name. Because both things are true. We care for all the elders with love and compassion. In addition, there are those who work their way deeply into our hearts.
Without the depth of memory and care that certain elders leave on our hearts, we would never come to understand or appreciate the beauty that life offers. Yes, it means grief. However, grief at its core is the evidence that love has been present. Because we love, we grieve. There is much love in this place. There is much more life and love here than in any congregation I have served. I am grateful for that every day.
Do not hide your grief, share it, that all might know of your love. We carry our favorites within our hearts. We work with hope, dignity, and love for all. We share our grief and our love together. It can feel overwhelming at times, all the death we experience. When your heart feels like it might burst from grief, remember that it is love that makes it so. Love is borne in both sorrow and joy. We know both here. When you find yourself saying, “I do not know if I can do this. There is too much death.” Correct your thinking and in your grief remember, “There is so much life and love here. How can I be anywhere else?”