Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where I Have Been (with addendum)

So... I haven't been around for a while. Let me tell you why.

The first five months have been painful for me. Not physically, although there has been some of that, but not enough for me to bother writing about, as physical pain and I are old comrades. No, I am talking about emotional pain.

My mother died on February 5th.

Remember when I told you, last year that my mother had been declared cancer-free, for the second time? Maybe I didn't tell you... honestly, I don't really remember. Anyway, after beating cancer last year, she had the bad fortune to take a nasty fall in the kitchen of her home. Of course, being a pretty tough old bird, she didn't bother to tell anyone for a couple of weeks... so when she went to the hospital with her friend who was later to be diagnosed with stomach cancer, she passed out. She was checked out and MRI'ed and X-rayed and massive bleeding on the brain was found. You know the drill from here, right? She had surgery, there was lots of clotting, she started having strokes and seizures. She was in a lot of pain. After nearly three weeks, the Doctors induced a coma, hoping it would allow her to stabilize with less of the pain she was obviously in. She died less than 12 hours later.

I went to the funeral, of course, though I didn't want to... it was horrible. Oh, there were mourners... neighbors and old faces from my childhood that I haven't seen in 30 years. There were also siblings that I really had no interest in seeing. I drove to New Jersey that morning, and then went back to Virginia that afternoon. I got back in time to go to my Confirmation class. The other teachers had it covered for me, so I went home with the Joe's Special that I had gotten from the best pizza place on the planet.

I lived within a 5 minute walk from Joe's from age five, until I enlisted at age 17. This place still has the pizza most beloved by almighty God. No, I'm not exagerrating. Have a Joe's special and you will know what I mean.

Anyway, a month (to the day) after my mother died, my father in law died. We went to his memorial service (a month after he died) in Milwaukee, Wisc., in April... and wouldn't you know it... it snowed. No, really. It freakin' snowed!

So, we get back from Wisconsin, and a week later I am in Princeton, New Jersey to spend most of a week at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Why?, you ask?, because I have enrolled in the Certificate Program for Youth & Theology. We had a three day forum on youth ministry and then our cohort for the certification program met or the first time.

It was incredible. Trust me. I'll talk more about it some other time, when I have the words. I wouldn't really have brought it up in the first place, except that my presence there bears on the subject of this post. The day before the retreat ended, I found out that a colleague of mine, a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war... a man who had been treated for PTSD, killed himself... on his father's birthday... two days before his sister's wedding... using the gun I trained him with and issued to him.

Nice, right?

I suppose I have to see the divine in this as best I can. I was in a place where I was in a tightly-knit group of people who were called to gether for God's purposes... they were able to help me get through it. I received a great amount of prayer and support from my new friends, and some really great advice from a new partner in ministry and pal that has allowed me to process all of this (thanks Rebecca!).

The first several months of this year haven't been kind to me... or maybe they have... I don't know. There is a lot going on in my head right now. I suppose I'l have to get back to you.

Oh, and I'm not sleeping well, which is why I am posting this at nearly one A.M. on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

OK, enough crying in my beer... I have to go to sleep. I have to teach a class on response to the active shooter tomorrow, when all I really want to do is cover my head with a pillow and take a long nap.

Oh... lastly, my mother's friend... the one she went to the hospital with? he died, too, a few days after my father in law's funeral.



Addendum: Wait. Sorry... I read this after I posted it, and it sounded rather morose. Let me end on a high note by adding that lots of good things have happened since the beginning of the year.

I already told you about my time at Princeton, which was an amazing and unexpected blessing.... let me tell you that I also lead a youth group from my church to a weekend-long event in Maryland; we celebrated the Baptism of several babies, the most recent of which was just this past week. I have been named Confirmation Coordinator at my church; I have read many new books; I have touched, and been touched by others. I remain well-loved despite the fact that I'm probably not worthy... and I have cooked some really fantastic food.

Peace be with you.

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