Posts Tagged ‘ken fuquay’

The following thoughts were written at Thanksgiving 2010.  My mother died 5 months later.  I reread these words every holiday season to remind myself of the important things in life.  So, forgive me for posting something from the past, but indulge me.  You might find it meaningful for you this holiday season.

Here I am sitting in my Mom’s and Dad’s little house awaiting the Thanksgiving meal. But this year things are different. My mother’s cognitive ability is slowly deteriorating. She is struggling to prepare the meal. It’s something she’s done with ease hundreds of times over the course of her life. Some days it’s the short term memory she fights to grasp. Other days it’s the long term memory that eludes her.

She talks to herself allot these days–almost constantly. Even the smallest mundane activities that you and I perform without thinking, she laboriously thinks through them then congratulates herself when accomplished with short words like, “Yes!” “That’s it!” “Nice” “Beautiful!” “Yes!”

In a very strange-bittersweet-but-inspiring-kind of way, God is reminding me today, that there is beauty in the “common and ordinary.” “Yes!” “That’s it!”

This morning God woke me up in a warm bed. “Yes!” “Nice!” “Beautiful.”

I got up without medical assistance of any kind and ate a good breakfast. “Yes!“

I will not go to bed hungry today. “Um huh. Yes!”

I will sit at table with my wonderful parents who have served God in full-time ministry for most of their lives. “Yes” “Nice!”

I get to worry and struggle over an Ethics paper and presentation due in less than 2 weeks. “Nice!“

I get to enjoy this amazing seminary journey with so many wonderfully articulate and compassionate people. “Beautiful!”

I get to face the struggles and challenges of ministry that will send me to my knees. “Nice!”

I get to go to work, interact with wonderful people, fight the day to day battles and make a living to support my family.  “Nice!”

God grant us the child-like faith necessary to see the beauty and experience the wonder of “flashing lights and lowering crossing bars!” (the common and ordinary) Help us to see life through the eyes of children and aging dementia patients. (It doesn’t take 9 volumes of Church Dogmatics and 4 years of seminary to expose the truth.) “Yes!” “That’s it!” “Nice.” “Beautiful!”

Be blessed, my friends, and be thankful! “Yes!” “That’s it!”

—-

In the later years of her life, after the cancer and multitude of chemo treatments had taken their toll on her body, my mother did not like to have her picture taken.  Of course,  we too could see the manifestation of the rapacious appetite of the drugs and disease and respected her request.  But, I always managed to get her to be in a photograph with me.  And although the photograph is not very flattering, it is a priceless picture, nonetheless.

Me & Mom 2011

This year, I had the amazing privilege of working with and for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region at Levine-Dickson Hospice House at Southminster as a Chaplain Intern.  The experience transformed my life, my ministry and my understanding of pastoral care.  I served under the very capable tutelage and direction of ordained minister and chaplain, Jane Mitchell.  Although the calendar tenure of my time at LDHH-S looks lengthy (April thru December), the actual experience seemed to have happened in the blink of an eye.

The experience was rich and deep, rewarding and fulfilling because end-of-life care does not let you skim the surface.  End-of-life care demands that you look life in the eye; address it, touch it and feel it for what it is.  I likened the experience to traveling by train.  When you travel by train, you don’t follow the well-landscaped hypnotic manicured interstate system.  When you travel by train, you travel the back roads; you see the back yards and back porches.  You see the treasures and the junk.  It’s raw; it’s real and it’s engaging—it is life in its purest form.  Ironic that so much living goes on at Hospice.  I will always be indebted to the staff and team at LDHH-S.  They are amazingly gifted human beings who showed me what true compassion looks like and they taught me how to trust.

It was gift to be part of the 2014 Light Up A Life ceremony at LDHH-S on Saturday December 6, 2014.  I was asked to share my thoughts on grief and the grieving process.  What follows are the notes from my reflection for that service.  I share them here, now, with you.

Dolom by Kyle Rhodes

“Dolom” a sculpted mask by artist Kyle Rhodes

In this moment—in this very second as these words leave my lips, there are persons who are feeling the full measure of grief. In this moment, we stand with them, and they stand with us. They are not alone. And we are not alone.

Three years ago on Palm Sunday, our family pet of 15 years took its last breath as I held it. The following Sunday, Easter Sunday, my Mom who had battled Mutiple Myeloma for 11 years, had some sort of mini-stroke, she feel, broke her wrist, was taken to the Emergency Room, and by 10:00am on East Monday, we found ourselves gathered around her bedside in Hospice Care in Greensboro North Carolina. The following Saturday, while my mother still lay in Hospice Care, I walked the aisle and graduated with a Masters of Arts in Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary. My parents, who had supported that endeavor, were unable to witness the graduation. The following Friday at 6:04am, My Mom breathed her last breath with me holding her hand. Two days later we celebrated Mother’s Day with my Mother’s body lying in state at the Funeral Home. I wrote in my journal, those three weeks were like the swinging of a pendulum—-I moved from deep sadness to extreme joy, from extreme joy to deep sadness, joy to sadness, sadness to joy.

Last year, a bright young 15 year old artist who attends our church asked me a simple yet poignant question. He asked, “What is your favorite emotion?” It was a question I had never been asked. I engaged the young man in conversation and as we talked, I realized in the depth of my spirit that joy and grief come from the same place inside of us.

I am convinced that without the deepness of our grief, we can never fully understand and appreciate the richness of life. Without tears, our laughter has no value. With no struggle there can be no appreciation for freedom. Without loss there can never truly be any “having.” And, I am convinced without grief, there can never truly be any joy.

I answered Kyle’s question, “Grief is my favorite emotion.”

A few weeks later, Kyle presented me with a mask that he sculpted. He named the mask, Dolum. Dolum comes from the latin word “Dorlore” which means, “deep sadness, grief.” If you look closely at Dolum, you will see the tears of grief on his face—but don’t stop there—keep looking, you’ll see that those tears have dropped on fertile ground and in that place, new life is springing up.

In the chapel at the LDHH-Southminster, there is a journal. People who wander into the chapel are invited to share their thoughts. I found these words written in that journal:

How badly will this hurt?
How deep will the cut be?
How weighty the grief?
How badly it will hurt is dependent solely on how goodly I have loved;
The cut will be only as deep as the measure of joy I experienced.
And the grief? Well, while weighty, I am confident that the grief will be in direct
proportion to the measure of the life I mourn. And I would not trade either.

In closing, I give you the gift of these words from White Elk, a Native American sage:
“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice!”

Several decades ago, Lanny Wolfe was asked by his record label, the Benson Company, to write a Christmas Musical.  One of the songs he penned for that musical is “More Than Wonderful.”   However, the Benson Company determined that the song was NOT “Christmas enough” to make the cut—so, “More than Wonderful” was cut from the musical (Noel: Jesus is Born!).  Later, Lanny pitched the song to Sandy Patti, who shared it with Larnelle Harris.  Sandy and Larnelle decided to cut the tune as a duet and the song skyrocketed in the Contemporary and Church Music worlds.

When you read the lyrics and allow the melodies to flow over you like water, there can be no doubt that there is not song that represents Christmas more appropriately and as forcefully and fully as “More Than Wonderful.”

Our trio, Three Fold Chord, began singing an acoustic version of the song several years ago. It continues to move us, inspire us and focus us on the incarnational event that split history in two.  I am grateful that the Holy Spirit moved the pen of Lanny Wolfe to craft this beautiful song.  I am grateful that “the Word” was made flesh and moved into the neighborhood (as Eugene Petersen translates it in the Gospel of John).  And  I am thankful that “the finest words I know could not begin to tell, just want Jesus means to me.”

I hope you enjoy this music, its message and meaning as much as we enjoy singing it.