Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good Mourning, Good Grief!

And I've been thinking a little about all the things I've "lost" as a result of this cancer, and grieving them as i would any loss. Although the irony is that the two things I miss and grieve most were not "things" at all, but actually living beings, and their loss had nothing really to do with my cancer at all. The first of these is my mom, who actually passed away on June 10th, 2007 - yet who I will always associate with this place and this ministry since she held back word of her diagnosis until after I had completed my first candidating sermon here (on Mother's Day that same year), and because I have missed her just about every waking moment since, espcially after being diagnosed with cancer myself. And my second great grief is the loss of my beloved companion animal of 13 years, "The Adorable Parker," who I sent ahead to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge this past October 4th, and who I also continue to grieve almost every day, although not nearly so intensely as I do my mom.

But between these more profound sources of grief, I continue to mourn a small handful of more mundane losses, which are far more closely related to my cancer itself.

I mourn the loss of my ability to walk, and the corresponding lack of mobility that goes with being confined to a wheelchair pretty much every waking moment of the day. This may not be forever; God knows I'm doing what I can in Physical Therapy to build up the supporting muscles around my back, and hopefully to figure out ways to minimize the pain and increase my endurance. But at this point it sure seems like an awfully long road to walk (with plenty of annoying stairsteps along the way) Grief comes easily in comparison. Especially since it is something I have to live with every single day of my life.

I mourn the loss of my ability to drive my car, and the corresponding lack of mobility that goes with THAT! This is a very different kind of lost freedom - to have to depend on others simply to get to church, get to the store, get to my study at the Eastland or to a Restaurant or the Hospital. The irony here is that physically I am probably capable of operating my car now, even with the clutch and the standard shift. But the amount of narcotics I need to take in order to keep my pain under control really prohibit me from safely operating a motor vehicle, not to mention the question of how do I get to the car in the first place, get the wheelchair in the trunk where it belongs, get myself back behind the wheel, drive to where I'm going, get the chair BACK out of the truck for me to sit in again, and.... Again, not entirely outside the realm of possibility. But a pretty long road to go....

I mourn the loss of my old apartment, and more specifically the joy and the freedom I experienced living there my first year here in Portland. I loved my West End neighborhood, the local restaurants, the easy walks to church and to the Eastland, and just being able to get out and around. And then suddenly I'm in the hospital and that whole part of my life is over. I continued to lease that place from April though July in the hope of being able to return, but finally gave it up when the lease was up. A pretty expensive storage locker, even if "hope" was the most important thing I stored there after all....

I mourn the gym, and those days not so long ago playing pick-up hoops with the over-35's in Concord, or at Nantucket High School, and even the undergraduates at the University of Oregon. Most of all I mourn the Boston Sports Club in Waltham, where I could go in the late afternoon and enjoy a circuit through the resistance training machines, a half-hour's worth of basketball shoot-around, a quick jacuzzi and sauna, and still be home in time for dinner and whatever evening meeting awaited me at church. Never really did make that kind of connection here in Porland. Thought about the "Y" (which was both affordable and convenient), but kept procrastinating and procrastinating...and now it's just another thing to mourn. Somehow I doubt that I will ever be playing even modestly-competitive basketball again...but a sauna and a jacuzzi every now and again would be nice! And my real ambition now is to get fit enough to sail.

There are other things I mourn as well of course, but these four activities (and the freedoms they represent) are the ones I miss the most. And at the same time, I'm also quite grateful for the things I CAN still do....

I'm grateful that I am still able to preach as often as I do -- that I can climb those half-dozen stairs into the high pulpit every other week, and share with the congregation whatever small wisdom I may have to impart that Sunday.

I'm grateful for the support of my friends, my family, and especially the members of this church, who have made it so easy to fight this disease without growing discouraged, and who have done so much for me personally to keep my spirits high, and to help me hold body and soul together.

I'm just grateful to the Mysterious and Sacred Powers of the Universe itself, the Spirit of Life, our Loving and Benevolent Creator, Chance, Luck, Opportunity, Good Fortune -- whatever it is that has given me this highly unlikely (at least statistically) shot of self-reflective consciousness: this all-too-brief "dual reality" of "being alive and having to die." Like every one of you who are reading this blog, I am a small part of the Universe becoming conscious of itself, and thus speculating about what it all means, and my own purpose and meaning within this grand (and perhaps accidental) design. Good God, what a Mystery! Are our minds even remotely equal to the task? Yet if we start out small by learning to Know Ourselves, and then gradually expand outwards from there: always authentically, always faithful to the things we have learned, yet open-minded enough to encounter other learnings....

Is it any wonder that gratitude always trumps grief in my experience, and that optimism rather than mourning remains the principal mood of the day....



3 comments:

boston unitarian said...

My devotions this morning included this definition of Piety by Channing, “filial love and reverence towards God, habitual gratitude, cheerful trust, ready obedience, and though last not least, an imitation of the ever-active and unbounded benevolence of the Creator."
Then I happened to read this post and found a true embodiment of "habitiual gratitude" and am deeply grateful for it. Thank you Eclectic Cleric and many blessings. BU

Ashley said...

Hi Tim,

Great post. Thank you.

I happen to think that it is you, your special ability to look on the bright side, to find the blessings in bad situations that sets you apart. My mother calls my ability to do this my "Happy Gene". Your happy gene will see you through. That and your wonderful sense of humor.

Ash

Jerry Channell said...

If we posit that John Locke is the American philosopher, and that we are born with a blank slate, then we we are all atheists at birth. I'm always amazed at the construct we create to understand ourselves. I 'spose i best identify with the following meditation from Marcus Aurelius; " Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious with you, O Universe.