Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Representing death . . .
This week a Presbyterian woman died from cancer . . . it has affected me greatly and I am not sure the exact reason . . . was it because she was the first Presbyterian who passed in the hospital since I have been there? . . . doubtful . . . was it that in my initial contact with her she shared with me her estrangement from her local church? . . . yes, I am sure this is a part of it . . . she had been away from the church for a long time . . . I have the sense that something happened at the Presbyterian Church she had most recently attended . . . that would have been many, many moons ago . . . in fact . . . what was it that estranged her from the church? . . . my original sense of call was based on the fact that many -- actually most of the people I worked with as a psychotherapist were unchurched . . . it wasn't because they didn't believe in and love God, but for some reason they felt disenfranchised by the C/church (both with a "C" and a "c") . . . and so this is one of the things that haunted me as I watched her die from a distance . . . you see at first the husband didn't want me around . . . I understood this . . . in a sense I represented God to him and he was angry with God for taking his wife . . . I suspect there is more to the story than we know as the family dynamics were intense . . . I could handle this . . . I could understand the husband connecting me with God . . . then when the husband came around and requested I be present the son, who had welcomed me said he didn't want me there . . . I couldn't understand it . . . until a colleague told me that it was his guess that the son didn't see me as representing God as much as he saw me representing death . . . I had shared my experiences with the 25 year old son with my colleagues in a verbatim -- an educational tool for learning . . . the son allowed me to pray . . . as he had told me that he understood his Mother was actively dying I was praying for her gentle and peaceful passing . . . abruptly he asked me to stop praying saying he couldn't hear this . . . so what does it mean to me that instead of representing a loving and welcoming God to him I represented death or a God who was violently taking his Mother from him? . . . as I have reflected on and prayed about this experience I know realize that on some level part of what the patient was grieving was not having provided her son a community in which he could come to know with certainty that death is not the final answer . . . and my heart breaks for the countless of men and women, boys and girls who will have to deal with the passing of a loved one without having the faith that allows them to grieve their lost while rejoicing in the gain of their loved one, esp. if it comes after a long struggle with cancer . . . so this also begs the question, how does the Church reach out in ways to those who feel that they have been disenfranchised from the very community that can offer them HOPE?