When grief comes home

Dear Friends,

Grief. Whether we want to or not, we have to deal with it. Sooner or later loss comes, sad stuff happens. If it happens directly to us, we do what is necessary to find our way through, almost always with the assistance of others. When it happens to others close to us, we offer what we can, some of us coping quite well, even managing to be helpful, while others of us never knowing quite what to say or do, always feeling awkward, watching for a reasonable opportunity to escape.

In my work grief is always close by. Ironically, when I “heard” my call to ordained ministry, I did not envision or imagine spending so much time in the grief and loss department. And the fact that my call really emerged from my own dad’s death makes that blind spot even more glaring. How could I have not seen that coming?!

Still, I am not one of those people who is “good” with grief. Over the years I have come to uneasy terms with it. However, it is quite different being on the edge of someone else’s loss, stepping in to offer what I can as a clergy person, compared to being in the middle of the situation myself. I prefer the former to the latter. I’d rather someone else experience the loss, as cold as that may sound, I’m just being honest.

On the ninth of October, the day I turned 60, I was sung to after church, received many birthday wishes, and enjoyed cake and ice cream with many of you. Thank you. You helped me turn the dial with a little less pain. I’m grateful.

In the afternoon I drove to Rochester to attend a memorial service for one of my closest friends. So, on the same day I celebrated the beginning of a new decade of life for myself, I also celebrated the end of a life that changed mine.

Dennis and I discovered some 30 years ago, as we served small churches in southwestern Minnesota, and “did time” on a district committee together, that we shared a somewhat warped view of the world and had similarly misshapen senses of humor. We laughed a lot together over the years. Survival tactics.

Dennis was a creative spirit who did all kinds of things that I did not. He baked, designed and created costumes for plays and other events, he drew and painted. He spoke German very well and performed in German a very funny version of “The 3 Little Pigs” that cracked me up every time I saw it.

During the past several years, as his wife Linda’s health failed, he and I were in contact a lot, talking on the phone several times a month, and texting almost daily. He would come to the Cities often to spend part of a day with me…a mental health rendezvous. He helped me survive the move here, and I was nearby as his wife moved toward the final exit. We became very close.

Dennis’ wife died in late June. He spoke at her memorial service on July 31st. He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia on August 2nd and never came back out. He died September 25th. He was 62.

I will beg your understanding as I take my turn grieving. I am not good at it and I don’t like it, not at all. Dennis’ daughters Blair and Beth don’t either. Your prayers for them and Dennis’ family are welcome. You can even include me if you want. I can use the help, as you well know.

Shalom,
Jeff