Advent : Notes

This afternoon I was going through paperwork that I need to file (and resisting the almost constant temptation to file everything under “Miscellaneous” when I came across some notes from CPE last year.
These were my personal notes about people I took care of, middle-of-the-night calls I wanted to be sure to put in the log, etc. With them I found two handwritten laments. At one point last year I went to a workshop on Lamentations. The facilitator encouraged us to write our own laments.
And write I did. Two laments, raging at God. One begging, pleading for help in dealing with the experience of caring for the family of a murdered child. Asking if, after pouring myself out in service to the grieving for 2 1/2 hours on a frosty cold Saturday morning, God had simply abandoned me. That’s what it felt like at the time.
The second lament was about cancer and AIDS. I accused God of tricking me, of leading me to believe that everything was okay, that in 2009, 2010 in a major US city medicine knew how to “deal” with both of these. But that wasn’t what I was seeing every day as a chaplain. On the paper I screamed at God, so angry, so tired of the AIDS/lymphoma combination I could barely stand it, so tired of getting to know patients and then watching them die, of knowing all along that they would die, but liking them anyway…
And with the notes I found a scrap of paper I’d used to write a note to the young man from the MacBook story… he died last month, I always knew he had less than a year to live, but it hit me like a kick in the stomach anyway.
And then another note, scribbled in the middle of the night on the phone with a nurse in Labor and Delivery… a 41 year old woman who had struggled to get pregnant for years was in the process of losing her baby at 21 weeks, would I come be with her? I remember that patient well, her tears, her sense of guilt, her kindness towards me, the sense that under other circumstances we could have been friends, my internal hard work to avoid admitting, even to myself, how much I identified with her. I thought about her, wondered how she’s doing, how she’s feeling about facing this Christmas, whether she’s trying to conceive again.
And then another scribbled note, a conversation with the medical ICU unit clerk on a weekend afternoon, a request to come see a woman whose mother was dying. I remember her, sitting there keeping vigil all alone, and I wondered if she wouldn’t get sick herself from the toll it was taking. We prayed her mother out of this world and into God’s hands. I wonder how she is this Christmas season too.

I love Advent but I struggled to connect with it this year. I just couldn’t make it happen. I wanted so badly to feel Advent (I ALWAYS want so badly to feel, really feel everything – until the moment when the emotion just becomes too much) but I couldn’t force it to happen. And then, going through dusty paperwork in the giant “to be filed pile” and reading through my notes and my laments, sitting in my desk chair sobbing, I knew I had finally touched the meaning of Advent. I have reached out and touched the darkness and despair, felt the cold, sat with the death. Let the waiting be over. O come, o come Emanuel, and bring with you the return of the light, the warmth, the hope, the life.

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~ by Sophia on December 18, 2010.

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