William James, as always I am impressed with your thoughtfulness. Your replies got me going. Here are some of my reflections on the first reading and questions posed by Gail.
As I mentioned, I have just returned to clinical work as a PRN chaplain. In the three months, I have served mostly on call responding to calls in the middle of the night to come and sit with dying persons and their families. So my recent experience has been with the first couple of levels of response. As I attempt to help hold the emotional and spiritual tension with the patients, families and staff, it is most helpful to know that this is one human experience we all have in common. Further, it provides some reassurance that there are fairly predictable reactions most, if not all go through. Numbness, denial, searching for meaning, longing or pinning for the anticipated loss relationship, anger, guilt, loneliness, fear, sorrow and relief gradually emerge as vulnerable human beings struggle to come to grips with the end.
All of these experiences build on the many personal losses I have sustained over the past two years: two brothers-in-law, and a father-in-law. I grow ever more aware of how sacred these times are. It feels like a gift to be able to share in these most vulnerable of times.
Pictures that come to mind when I experience the pain of loss are wilderness and a dark night of the soul. Music that rings in my mind are “Lean on Me” “The River”.
I find many of the Psalms speak to the sorrow and the hope.
Reading this material and reflecting on experiences of loss and grief, I find identification and patience. For example, when a young man who had just lost his young mother cursed me, I was able to sit still and not react and allow him to express his anger, guilt and sadness, which flooded over him at the first sight of his deceased mom.
I saw were Kathy has joined us and Rose has dropped out. This is too important a topic to drop. So I hope we few can find meaning and hope out of our sharing.
I stand still for now.