Eyes on the prize

Yesterday was a first for me. Three deaths in one day. I met with two daughters of an 83 year old man yesterday in my office. I was travelling on the bus through the downtown when my cell phone went off with a message from a member of the church, her husband of 62 years had died. And I am about to catch the bus to Spryfield to visit a widow who will celebrate her husband’s life on Saturday. All of these deaths will involve some deep sharing with loved ones, something I feel very honoured to do. There are also bulletins to create and arrangements to be made with musicians and other participants. It will be a busy time.

I find at times like this perspective is an absolute necessity. It is not all about me, when I think about these adult daughters and two widows I realize that whatever challenge that has been presented to me I am not the one grieving the loss, feeling the sting of death, discovering a void in my life. When I go home there will be my family, whole and healthy. I am truly blessed.

I am also blessed to be part of these occasions. Death is a profound experience, painful yes, but also meaningful beyond words. I have training to assist a family through their grief but that work is truly their own and watching people do this courageous work is inspiring and lifts up my ministry. I am a more mature Christian and a more effective Minister as a result of these experiences.

Too often I find professionals in the caring profession lose this perspective and allow the weight of this work both to overwhelm them and stress them out. It is good to practice self-care and I look forward to trips to the Market with my wife, visits to the downtown with my daughter, a bite to eat with a few friends. Those will happen, I guarantee it. In 26 years of this work there has never been a very busy week when I could not find a day in the following week to unwind and be present with loved ones.

Stress depends on the individual and her/his own coping mechanism but there are a few things that feel fairly universal in dealing with number of challenges all at once. The one we all acknowledge today is taking some time for yourself when the flurry of activity ends. But two others I would offer include; a) taking some satisfaction that you are participating in something larger than yourself, that you are being a vessel of love in a broken world and 2) that you focus your energy on the matter that in a week’s time or a month’s time, will still matter. In other words as challenges mount ask yourself which one or ones are the experiences that will stick with you and others in the days and months ahead. The things that come and go are important too but they can wait and the people on the other end of these requests will understand provided you let them know why you are focusing elsewhere in the short term.

At the end of this very challenging time I will look back and feel the connections I have made and the healing I have witnessed. It will touch me. These connections will sustain me when I make mistakes, feel inadequate and lost. At the end of the day keeping one’s eyes on the prize is the best medicine for the stressed soul. Peace.