Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Holy living, holy dying: part 2

Remembering P's triumphant assertion of resurrection, I found myself regretting once again the protective reticence that meant that even as he visibly wasted away, my father could not,  would not speak of death, or allow us acknowledge the uninvited stranger whose presence was about to derail us. A naive teenager, cherished and protected at every turn, I lacked the intuition to pick up the few hints he offered, and so I repeatedly bruised myself walking into the elephant that had apparently settled down comfortably in the midle fF our sitting room. Though he was a man of deep faith, Daddy was also a man of his time...for whom soul baring would have been unthinkably painful, so I have no idea how he negotiated that final journey, nor did I really manage to say goodbye....Tragically, we were all far too busy pretending we were bound somewhere else entirely.

This meant that later I had no real language for my grief either when it came, and the relationship with my then parish priest was not one to enable confidences. The school's massive performance of Brahms Requiem which ended that A level term for me helped a bit, and music and poetry provided a series of safety valves tbrough which to endure the un-endurable, but that great conspiracy of silence which isolated each member of the family just when we most needed one another undoubtedly left its scars. My longing to offer excellence in funeral ministry probably dates from then, for certainly the "one size fits all" service the Prayer Book presented gave cope for neither personal grief nor thanksgiving.  (More recently I watched the anger and confusion of many at a traditional RC funeral, which allowed no reflection of the departed in the liturgy, and feelings of professional frustration mingled with the overwhelming sadness of a farewell in which there was so little scope for gratitude). Learning the ways of grief at first hand at 18 is far from ideal, and has left me peculiarly bad at endings and goodbyes of every kind, and given the "changes and chances of this fleeting world",  this can be a bit of a I am more than ever convinced that generous and early conversation is a really important element in a good death.
I want to have time to leave well, and perhaps to try and hand on whatever *ve learned of life and love along the way.For me that conversation will, of course, be shaped by the "sure and certain hope" that we go from love to that I trust that one day I can say with conviction "For all that has been, thanks: for all that shall be, yes."

1 comment:

UKViewer said...

Thank you.

I know that I didn't deal with grief when my father died, probably because I'd become detached and alienated from him, due to his bullying, bad tempered treatment of us as children. I couldn't see that perhaps his mental health issues were due to post truamatic stress due to war service, which when I spoke to his siblings, apparently changed him from the friendly outgoing 18 year old who went of to war in 1941, only to return a quieter, withdrawn and bad tempered 23 year old in 1946.

I've dealt with personal grief when friends have died, suddenly, one in a suicide and another in a road traffic accident. Than two people I served alongside were killed in the Falklands conflict, their loss felt more familial than family itself.

I never had to deal with the loss of a mother, because she abandoned us as 4 yearss (me) and I got used to not having a mother by the time that we came out of care, 5 years later.

Only when I entered the discernment process did a SD dig under the skin into the deep issues of dealing with my emotions, that ailed me, emotions that the Church wanted to be sorted before I embarked on the deeper, formational part of discernment. It came down in the end to admitting my own vulnerability, to dealing with each death, one at a time, praying into them and being reconciled through healing prayer and anointing with oils and the laying on of hands to move forward.

Now, I'm looking at funeral ministry as part of my LLM Training, which will be in 2016-17 the 3rd year. Already, I'm involved with funerals with being Verger for funerals, and have had 9 in church in the past 5 months, some of which have been heart rending, but I've managed to deal with the emotions that they provoke by talking with my Vicar (who is brill) and my SD, who continues to guide me today.

Loss is such an emotive thing, we're expected to be vulnerable and brave and to have empathy for others, and we tend to neglect ourselves. Support is vital and the Church is in a unique position to offer hope and to celebrate a life here, alongside the life to come in Christ, which seems to me to be unique among funeral providers in the UK.