As I write this article, I’m surprised I’m feeling grief. Although I suspected it might be the case, today I confirmed Carolyn died. She actually died on December 29, 2013. I just didn’t know it.
I felt a special connection with Carolyn. We were ordained Deacons (back when there was a two-step ordination process) in the same class twenty-nine years ago. There were twenty Deacons in our class. While cleaning my home office, I came across our group ordination picture. I’m looking at it while I write this article. I am the only person in the picture you can’t fully see (the story of my life!). In the final Board of Ordained Ministry interview, Carolyn and I stood together in a hallway waiting to find out if we were approved. A roar of laughter broke out from the room, and I told Carolyn: “They just voted on me”. She wanted to know why I thought it was me, and not her. I assured her it was me. Then the door was opened, and I was told: “Congratulations Mark, you have been approved.”
Carolyn entered ordained ministry later in life. In our class picture, she was forty-seven, and I was twenty-six. We stayed connected for years, even though our paths went in different directions. Carolyn moved quickly to a bigger church, then suddenly left the ministry. I accepted an appointment in Alaska. We occasionally communicated, then lost track of each other. Over the years I tried several times to find her but did not have any success. I’m writing this article a few hours after finding Carolyn’s obituary. She was seventy when she died.
How do we handle grief in our lives? Last week central Michigan was struck a difficult blow. Two dams failed, flooding all the surrounding areas. Ten thousand people were evacuated. Our niece was one of them. She had over seven feet of water in her basement. The water is now pumped out, but there is still a lot to do. The water heater, furnace, and possibly air conditioner, will have to be replaced. All of the sheetrock in the basement has to be removed, along with the carpeting. The basement will have to be re-wired. The most painful part, though, are all the items with sentimental value which were lost. My brother said house after house suffered this same fate. How many people are grieving?
The last I heard no lives were lost in the flooding. This is a miracle! The most painful grief I’ve ever experienced came with deaths of close friends and family members. I was hit the hardest when my Mom died. Her death was not expected and caught me completely by surprise. That was twenty-two years ago. I remember well when my brother called to tell me. I was just getting ready to leave for Annual Conference.
We all grieve in our own ways, with our own timing. What fits one person, won’t fit another. We need to allow ourselves the time we need. If we find our grief paralyzing us from living our life, however, we might need to seek help. Even in the midst of grief, if we look for it, we can find hope. The hope Christ helps us to travel into a new day. Both grief and hope changes who we are.
How many ways is this pandemic, and life in general, bringing grief into our lives? In the United Methodist Church, how are we experiencing grief? From my perspective, there is no way to avoid the pain of grief if we risk investing in love. Life would be a sad existence, though, without love! There is comfort in the thought the hope Christ offers to us has love as it’s source.
Your brother on the journey, Mark