Sunday, 13 September 2015

Good grief

He is one of my colleagues, a retired Priest at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key FL.  His beloved wife of fifty three years died some 27 months ago.

He and I were outside the Church Office last week, chatting together after a parish meeting.  I said  "it's still so hard isn't it?"

He knew what I meant. His grief is ever present.

I listened as he talked about that grief.

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She lives in our neighbourhood.  I see her most mornings before daybreak, as she takes her long morning walk, and I walk with Penne my dog for the first of our five daily (1/2 mile) walks.

We encountered each other a few days ago.  Lord knows why, but I said "you must still grieve for  C." (her husband who died some eighteen months ago).

"Oh yes" she said, "and it doesn't get any better".  "And it's harder than that, I also miss our son who was killed in a road accident when he was twenty-two years old".

I'd never known about this son.  I knew that she was missing her husband, her son, and the grandchildren she never had.

I let her talk.  My job was to listen.

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 "E" and I   were never close friends when  he came to be the Assistant Rector at the "big and wealthy" middle class parish in downtown Fitchburg MA, and I was the Rector at the small, poor, and decidedly blue-collar parish  in West Fitchburg,

But I liked what he wrote, and I like what he said.

He moved to a parish in Worcester MA, and I moved to a parish in  Chicopee MA. We would meet at various and sundry events for Episcopal Church clerics in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and although we never became close friends, we respected and liked each other.

I will never forget the day when, at one of those god-awful and dreary "Clergy Days" we were divided into small groups to discuss (get this) our "Philosophy of Ministry".

We looked at our feet in embarrassed silence.  What the hell were we supposed to say?

He nailed it by saying:  "My philosophy of ministry is this:  I am farting around hopefully."

Damn!  Ain't that the truth!

 "E" moved to West Virginia and I moved to Pittsfield, MA.

But, good Lord above, we re-connected when I moved to become the Rector at  St. James's Church Cambridge, MA in 2000.

"E" was now retired, and  lived in Bath, ME.   He and his wife had divorced.

 He would often drive down from Maine to worship God at the Cambridge church.

As  did a devoted Christian named "G"   whom  I'd known "at a distance" in my Fitchburg days, and who was by then was also divorced from his wife,

"G"   liked the Cambridge congregation so much that  every Sunday he would drive the 40 or so miles from Fitchburg to be there,

The long and the short of this is that  (E)  and   (G) and I  became re-united when I became the Cambridge Rector in 2000,  These two "Fitchburg-connection" men were same-sex partners, in a delightful union.

Their commitment   was so delightful that I presided at a Eucharist of Celebration for their holy union, (immediately following their civil marriage),  at St. James's Cambridge, back in 2006..

But dammit all, (G)  aged only 60, died in his sleep about four  weeks ago.

The love of his life (E) is understandably devastated, Who would not be so?

So I called (E)  the other day, not to offer counsel, but simply to listen to his grief,

What else (more or less)  should I have done?

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LISTENING  is the clue.


Whether the griefs we encounter be one, three, or thirty years old, the best gift that we can offer to our grieving friends is not good advice, but a listening ear, 







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