My cousin Kathy passed from this life into glory yesterday afternoon. She was the primary caregiver for her mother, my Aunt Gloria, for the last several years. Aunt Gloria passed about two weeks ago.
No one knew that Kathy was battling lung cancer, which had metastasized to her brain and bones, all during the last years of her mother’s life. Even Kathy was unaware of the truth. Instead she had been in treatment for a bleeding ulcer, which apparently masked the symptoms of her true disease.
When Kathy was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia a few days after Aunt Gloria’s death, we all just thought she needed rest because of her work with her mother through hospice. That Kathy’s body was only holding out for Aunt Gloria’s passing never crossed any of our minds. The news was a gut punch to her husband, her brother, her sons and to those of us who watched her life from a more removed distance. Most of all it was a gut punch to Kathy.
I got to sit with Kathy last Saturday for about an hour. We talked about faith. We talked about family. We talked about anger and the deep struggle with how unfair life is. We talked about healing and miracles. We talked about being ready for the walk into eternity. We prayed. Tears were shed ,and then the hospital chaplain, who is also a relative, came to bring Kathy a word of comfort.
I spoke with Kathy’s brother, my cousin John two days later by Facebook video. I got a chance to speak with Kathy again in that video. By that point the doctors had spoken with the family about doing hospice in hospital, as Kathy was no longer strong enough to be moved. It was another blow to Kathy who wanted to pass at home as her mother had.
I brought supper to Kathy’s husband, Jaque,s and her son, Todd, last night. As Kathy was passing, Jaques’ brother also passed away. This family now has to face three funerals at the same time. They are reeling. Decisions are piled up on top of each other and are being triaged into “what has to be done now” and. “what can I do after I have slept a bit”.
My cousin Nada is bringing supper tonight, and Beth a dear friend of Kathy’s from high school, who now owns a local grocery, is bringing supper on Saturday. I am preparing the church for a double funeral or for perhaps two back to back funerals.
In all this I recognize a shift in me and in church ministry. As a pastor in town I am connecting with the town to bring ministry to my cousin’s family. The family is being ministered to by the community, by the family, by friends and even friends of friends. The church is part of that not the center of it.
I was sitting with my mother yesterday watching an episode of CALL THE MIDWIFE. In the show I caught a glimpse of what I think God is doing in our church and town. He is not a God a who dwells in buildings. The richness of His love cannot be contained in even the most sacred of spaces. He is love. He is relationship. He is moving in our church as He moved through the sisters of Nannotus House in East London. We are coming to see we are His love flowing in and through the very center of our community.
What does the move of God look like in the days ahead? It is sitting beside the bedside of a dying loved one praying with them, crying with them. It looks like spaghetti and meatballs ordered from the local pizza place and delivered to a family that is too overwhelmed to cook. It is engaging people who don’t even see how close they are to God, in the work of God they long to be involved in without even knowing it. It is watching Murder She Wrote or Call the Midwife with people who have no one to watch it with them.It is love being recognized and brought to the surface of our everyday lives and showing the redemptive love of Christ in the darkest places.