death · Life

The First and Third Sunday

It took a man dying to wake me up… I wasn’t prepared. Kinda like that whole virgins with the oil parable, or the thief, or keeping watch. God seems to run fire alarm drills.

I have lived life using checklists, it’s what I do. A check here, a check there and my assignment is complete. It’s not that the world operates this way, but it’s that I operate this way, and I am sure many of you do to. We are conditioned to “make the best out of life” and “get things done” and “be productive.” For us type A’ers, it’s a way of life and provides us not only with comfort and stability, but with a sense of purpose. It’s also a form of control. Because surrendering, surrendering is just the ultimate out of control thing to do.

And this past Sunday was no different. Serve at mass check. Attend mass check. Deliver communion to the homebound gentleman I’ve been assigned to visit, no, no not check. It was 11:30 my usual visitation time. Selfishly, I was tired. I had been up at my usual 5 am for an hour alone with the Lord, served at my first Sunday of the month mass as a Eucharistic minister, sped across town to make it to the 9:30 mass, arrived back in time to grab the host, my script, and a reading for the visit. I was tired, wanted to turn back and go to bed, wanted to spend my Sunday under the covers.

So I parked and gathered my things. Called as I usually do up to the apartment to the wife who I suspect has dimensia. Yes it’s me, Melissa, remember me? I am here with your communion. No door buzz. Ring again.

Hi yes it’s me again, door didn’t open, I grew inpatient.

My normal walk of three flights of stairs due to my fear of elevators. This time when I walked down the darkest hall I have ever seen in my life, the door was not opened as it usually was for me. Knocked and the door was opened. A nurse was sitting at the table.

And you are?

Melissa, from the church. I am here to distribute communion. 

Oh you didn’t hear? He died at 9 am.

I can’t tell you much about what happened after that except that I started to cry, and couldn’t stop. The nurse who I presume was from Hospice consoled me. She seemed surprised when I told her I was a stranger and not family, probably because I was crying so hard. Maybe it was the lack of emotion she sees from people everyday, maybe it was how hard I was crying, but she clearly saw that I was moved in a way that words could not substitute for.

So I sat there for awhile until she nudged me to go in. He was still in there… so was his wife and some family. She was disoriented, but I hugged her and told her I had communion with me, specifically two hosts. We walked outside and I asked her in front of the Hospice nurse if there was anyone else that would like to receive communion.

No, nobody else.

Without missing a beat the Hospice nurse piped up like I had brought the most precious of jewels, “Me! I would like to take communion!”

So I said a short prayer. We bowed our heads, and I fed them the Lord’s body.

I walked downstairs and couldn’t breathe. I had a million thoughts running through my head. Ministry suddenly was not a checklist, or a weekend retreat or a first and third Sunday. Ministry was life, and death.

I realized there were no sign ups for these kinds of things. No schedules or the like. No first and third Sundays. No, nothing like that at all.

The last thing the gentleman had said to me and the only time he talked was last last Sunday. He smiled at me as his wife apologized for the coffee he had just spilled all over himself. I looked at him and told him, I am so glad to be here and you know, I spill things all the time too, you’re not the only one. I got a smile out of him and he mustered up everything he could to respond to me.

You know, I love the mass on tv. It’s so beautiful.

He talked about it like he was talking about a person. Like the most beautiful person he had ever seen. Like Jesus.

And now he was dead…

Knock and the door will be opened to you invites you into that uncomfortable space. It is not about an asking so much as it is about a deeper, more intimate spiritual level inside your soul. I didn’t even know the gentleman’s name since the request for a home visit had come in through his wife, but for some reason that was never important to me…

Ministry can’t and won’t be on a schedule for very long. We can try and choose who we serve, but in the end it’s not really up to us. We can sign up, show up, be the very best Christians we can be, but in the end, none of that is ministry. It doesn’t take knowing a name to learn what the kingdom of God is.

I don’t plan on having those kinds of checklists anymore. I’m going to quit a lot more “ministries,” and just spend some time with Jesus. I am going to be Mary. I am going to have the better part.

There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:42

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7 thoughts on “The First and Third Sunday

  1. “Ministry was life, and death.”

    I wonder reading your beautiful post … is living and dying not something we all just did because we realised we were something special. And then the church called that “intentionally visiting” “the ???? living” or “the ???? living dead”. And now the churched call “living and dying” different ministries?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes you got it! Exactly where you were in your post, exactly the same thoughts, feelings maybe expressed in a different way. Why is there a ministry for that? We are not a community, we are a bunch of sign up sheets. And I wasn’t prepared for this at all. Nobody talked to me about this- life and death and that I may be the last person to feed him the Lord’s body. Isn’t that profound? I am so deeply moved by what happened to me, but so deeply disturbed…. I have so much to say and have discovered so much in all of this I could go on all day…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I got a smile out of him and he mustered up everything he could to respond to me.”

        Reminds me of this line from The Shack: “When I dwell with you, I do so in the present—I live in the present.”

        That connection might only be an instant (by a clock), but a lifetime (in love).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it was a lifetime for me. I experienced more Jesus in that moment than I have in years I have been involved in the church.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. and what matters Melissa is that you were present to this man and his wife–despite being tired, preoccupied, etc…you were present as a living breathing example of Christ’s love—doesn’t matter whatever was going on inside of you but rather that it was your demonstrative actions that spoke to him— spoke loud and clear—that you came as a messenger from the church…a young, pretty, and yes, energetic despite perhaps not feeling as such, messenger of God’s word—a true living breathing example of Christian…little Christ!!!!
    and you continued that example in your outpouring of emotion to the Hospice worker—despite it perplexing even yourself….
    I find this to be a beautiful tale Melissa—as you continue the blessing in recounting what happened—
    it matters not that you weren’t there that particular day he died but that you had been there prior—helping to prepare this man for what he was to soon experience—his homecoming…and you helped with the good-bye party!!!
    thank you for sharing….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t go into too much detail in the body of the post but I did come the morning he died, he had dies at 9 am and I arrived at 11:15 not knowing. I was going to call before I came but since the wife has what I suspect is dimensia, I knew she wouldn’t remember me calling. When I came he was still in the other room, they hadn’t come for him yet, which made it that much harder. I didn’t want to go into the room since he was still there, but nurse said that it was ok (maybe not ok for me in my mind though)! I did walk in and saw him and that was just so hard. The church does not prepare us for these things in these “ministries,” the sight of death and the emotions it brings. It wasn’t that I was afraid, it was that I just didn’t want to look.
      I look at all kinds of gruesome photos as part of my job, even reviewed some photos from a murder the other day. Those still bother me, but knowing someone and being right there up close to death is quite another, even if you did not know them that well…
      I did have a great sense of peace, a real sense of purpose, a thought running through my mind of what “ministry” had become. That I was able to serve him the Lord’s body, that he felt connected to the church despite being there, and that to him the mass was as beautiful as Jesus…
      I am still processing my thoughts and the lessons God is teaching me. My eyes are wide open. I want to be Mary…
      Love you,
      M

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know that was a very hard thing for you as it would be for most of us.
        I remember when mother was in the hospital dying of cancer…I was 25 and she was just 53. She has slipped into a coma—at the time, I thought this was what death must be like… but I was wrong.
        I can remember asking an older friend “why doesn’t He (God) just take her…why is He allowing her to just lay here like this…”
        But my friend told me that we don’t know what is going on between mother and God and to what she and He may need to still work out….it was only when she did finally silently die—moving from this life to the next, that I was struck by the very stillness of death.
        When I went into that hospital room to see her I was suddenly so very aware that she was not there…and it was the angels I heard in my head…”why are you seeking the living among the dead…”
        We in the US, western culture, do not do death any justice.
        We shun it, consider it almost taboo as we spend our lives constantly running from it and don’t even call it what it is…as everyone will never say that someone “died” but rather that “they passed”…
        and not even “passed away” any longer, as it is shortened to simply “passed”—like an after thought of merely passing by or passing a test…
        odd really….

        Liked by 1 person

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