Sunday, September 9, 2012


When I arrived here almost two years ago, the congregation was praying for a young adult who was battling cancer.  We prayed through all sorts of treatments and problems.  Everyone was concerned for this young adult and the family.  A couple of weeks ago the oncologist finally acknowledged what many of us had been whispering for weeks.  He couldn't promise a cure.  Last night the individual died.  It was sudden, if you can say that after a long drawn out battle with cancer. 

A member called me, obviously distressed.  She was on her way to pick up the father to take him to the apartment about an hour away.  Mother and sibling had been on their way when they received news of the death.  They didn't want father to make the trip alone.  Another church friend went over to their home when they got back, staying until 1:00 in the morning.  I spoke to them briefly on the phone.  They didn't want me to come, but they wanted me to know.  We started the prayer chain.  Administrative Assistant and I conferred.  It was decided to pull a humorous video promotion.  I decided that I needed to address this before worship began this morning. 

The members were gathering and hugging one another as they arrived, and as it was almost time to begin, someone told me the father had just entered the church.  By the time I got back to greet him, the mother and the sibling  (with spouse and children) had entered.  They took their normal seats up front and on the side.  After the other announcements, I stood and spoke of what had happened, and how it was hard to understand after all our prayers.  Then I said that while the individual had not been cured, they had been healed, and now we needed to pray for healing for the family as they grieved.  I told people they could sign up to bring food the funeral dinner, though we didn't have a time yet, and that the family would be collecting hugs following the service.  Then we prayed for them and went on with the service. 

The family held hands through the service, and at one point I saw a woman standing behind the mother with her arms on her shoulders, just being present with her as she cried.  In the midst of their grief, though, they talked about the healing that death had brought.  There was no more pain or nausea.  They spoke of family members who been on hand to welcome the individual to heaven.  They smiled and chuckled some, too. 

I had a super busy week ahead.  The whole schedule just got thrown out of the window.  On the day I was supposed to journey to an all day meeting over 2 hours away, I will meet with the family.  On the day I was supposed to attend an afternoon meeting over an hour away, I will be leading a memorial service. 

Some people were surprised to see the family in worship this morning.  I was glad they were there.  They are people of faith, and they needed to be with their family of faith this morning.   I am sure they are glad they were there.  They told me they were grateful for my comments prior to the service, as were a number of others.  It was interesting, because this service, which had been in the planning stages for several months, was so appropriate for today.  The choir sang this anthem.  It was the  theme of the service, and seemed especially appropriate today. 


What I will do this week is among the hardest things I do as a pastor.  It is also one of the parts that I most treasure.  I tell families it is an honor to accompany them on this journey.  I was reflecting this morning on the fact that the last two deaths have been of people who are younger than I am.  I guess that is part of growing older.  I'm glad I am a pastor.  I am glad I am in ministry with this congregation at this time.  I did warn Administrative Assistant to rest up on her day off tomorrow, because we are in for another challenging week. 

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