Thursday, November 26, 2009


Matthew 6: 25-33
Psalm 126

This is the time of year when we see people take stock of their lives. A family sits around a table on a TV show, and they have a manufactured conversation about what it is they are thankful for. And the content of that conversation is superficial; kids are thankful for their DS game machines, families are thankful for each other, without elaboration. OK, formalities observed, ritual satisfied, where's the gravy?

I've done that a number of times over the years. But not this year.

This is a holiday that was created very early in our history but was formalized in blood, during the Civil War. It has become a holiday which, wonder of all wonders, does not require presents, and is actually based, even now, on companions and community. There is creeping consumerism and over-indulgence, the bane of American existence, even in this holiday, with the blitz for ingredients for all the dishes, the eating three helpings of everything, and waking up at 3:00 the next morning to make 4:00 sales. There is also the creeping awareness coming to this country that this holiday is not happy for all; Native Americans in this country consider it a national day of mourning, essentially a celebration of the genocide of their nations. But, even with all of those issues, at it's root, we will drive for hours to merely eat a meal and watch football. To merely be with people we love.

This year, it's simply a blessing to go to a friends' house, have a great meal cooked in the style we prefer, be in an environment of good friends, fine wine and beautiful music, and reflect on all that has happened.

The gospel says that "can any of you by worrying add an hour to the span of your life?" Well, yes, if you are worrying bout the levels of meds or other aspects of care to your loved one. But in the sense of what Jesus means, in the minds of healthy and active humans, no. We have been taken care of at almost every step of the way, stepping blindly from one stage to another, and friends have appeared who have guided us to the next steps as they've been needed. EVERY aspect of our lives has been provided for.

We needed to find a way to get Donna radiation, and to care for her during chemo, and an old friend steps forward, an employee of a facility that fits our needs perfectly. Another friend, whose mother passed away a couple years ago, and whose memorial service I helped officiate, tells us she volunteers with a hospice organization, and that is who we arranged to have Donna's home care with.

We have been taken care of, along every step of the way. I do not mean that there has been an avoidance of pain. Lord, no. But, just as I believe about the character of God, I believe that people have come to us who have been companions for each step, not to take away the pain, but to walk with us through it. They've come from Facebook, old friends from high school who have come to mean much more in a short time; they've come from the churches, both my current and former, who have shared their stories and given hope or at least been able to give the benefit of experience; they've come as therapists, doctors, nurses, nurses aides, social workers, administrators, and counselors.

Consider the lilies of the field, indeed.

Today was Donna's hospice intake. There's only one significant step left. We've gone out into this journey weeping, at times literally, but living very day with an unmistakable weight. These people, these companions, these organizations, have sowed in tears the seeds of the coming harvest of joy. I promised Joe the other night that we will be happy again, he and I, and Donna will of course be immersed in liquid joy before too long. There will come a time when we too will come home with shouts of joy and carrying the sheaves of a rich full life, the seeds that have been planted even now.

And for all this sowing, and the reaping to come, I am indeed thankful.

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