November 28, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to have my one day off on Friday, because I had been fighting a flu for two weeks (which was not too bad but made me generally tired all day, and I ached by the middle of every afternoon.) While relaxing at home, I received a call. After a slow two-year decline, one of our long-standing members had died: peacefully. The family was going to the Mortuary Saturday morning, and then we would talk about the memorial service.
Saturday morning the phone rang and it was from a person at the mortuary calling to tell me that a member of my church had died and the family would like me to do a memorial service. “Oh, I know Marvin well,” I replied, “I have already started talking to the family about a service. “Marvin?” he said back, “I’m calling about George.” A sadness rushed through my body. I thought: “George who went in for minor colon surgery last Tuesday? No,” I realized, “the George who I had visited a week earlier in the hospital, wracked with pain but not talking of death at all.”
Both families had already planned a service for the next Saturday, one in the morning one in the afternoon. Sadly, the morning service could not be held in our building because our Rummage service would be going then and the foyer was filled with stuff. Our church Dinner Discussion group was meeting in my home that night, the next morning I had a service on a topic that still required some serious work, including the integration of two video clips, and we had a congregational meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss a serious financial crisis in the church. This crisis had generated a number of extra meetings and conversations.
On top of all this I was doing all my regular work: research for a sermon about something I knew very little, calling on people who were in the hospital, talking someone out of depression, meeting with colleagues in my UU Cluster, meeting with colleagues from Christians in my city, meeting with various leaders, planning and preparing, and attending the seek to week events of the church. I love my work, I love the church, but I was feeling a little overwhelmed by Wednesday; and, I was still sick.
I realized, not for the first time, how much my sanity and health depend on flexibility built into to my weekly rounds. Luckily, I had done enough research for the sermon that I could stop research and go ahead with writing. It takes a lot of time to go out to visit people, so I insisted that a couple of people come to me at church and I called to talk with some on the phone rather than face to face. I had two writing projects I could put off to the next week, and there were some events that I could easily postpone or cancel.
Late in the week, after I had been at the church for six hours straight and was feeling “like butter spread over too much bread,” I called to tell my wife that I had another meeting on the environment, and then I would be home. She protested that she had not seen much of me recently and reminded me that I was still sick. “Do what you need to do,” she said. After I hung up the phone I let myself be very quiet, took several deep breaths, and then went straight home since resting in her arms was what I most needed to do.
The weekend was beautiful, successful and inspiring. Thanksgiving break did not come too soon.