Saturday, October 24, 2009

The One About the Rabbi, the Monk and the Pastor

Well, I'm not Jewish or Buddhist, so I'm cutting straight to the pastor.

To say that my pastor and church failed me during the darkest period of my entire life is like saying Hitler had issues. Friends who have heard the story are appalled, which validates that I wasn't simply crazy with grief. At a time when I desperately needed spiritual comfort, my church of ten years forgot me.

Oh, but the signs were there.

Such as the day before Mom's surgery, when the wife of the assistant pastor emailed me, asking if I'd like to join a brainstorming session for future church services. I wrote back, explaining that I'd have to decline because my mother had just been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and I would be her primary caretaker. I also said she was entering the hospital the next day for surgery and asked that prayers be said for her.

How did the pastor's wife respond? She didn't. Nada, zip, zilch. Like I'd mentioned my mom was suffering from the heartbreak of psoriasis or chronic dandruff.

And it gets better, folks.

Days after Mom died, I made an appointment to see my pastor and told his administrative assistant the reason why. I was grief-stricken and in total despair. Angry at God and confused at why He let this happen. I desperately needed spiritual counseling.

So there I was, sitting in the lobby and struggling to hold back the tears while my pastor kept me waiting ten minutes because hey, it was a hot day and he had gone out to get an ice-coffee.

Okay, fine.

As I sat in his office, barely able to speak because I was sobbing so hard, he simply sat there. Slurping his ice-coffee and nodding, occasionally saying things like, "Hmmm," or "That's too bad," or "I'm so sorry." Then, when I couldn't utter another word, he finally spoke. Did he quote the Bible? Recite scripture or say anything to help me make sense of what had transpired?

Not quite.

"You know what's really bad?" he asked. "The death of a child."

I was speechless. Was I suppose to feel better that it was JUST my old mother that had died and not some adorable little tyke? I left his office still grief-stricken and also newly befuddled.

What the hell had just taken place?

This appointment was seven weeks ago. Since that time, neither my pastor nor anyone from his staff has reached out to me even once to see how I'm doing. No emails, no phone calls, no "Hope you're hanging in there, God loves you." Nothing. Despite greeting me in the lobby every Sunday morning for over ten years, my sudden absence hasn't made a dent on their radar.

In a previous posting I wrote that a crisis reveals the worst in people as well as the best. I'm saddened to learn that this idiom applies to churches as well, which is why I won't be returning to my former house of worship.

Not that I'm done with God just yet. There's always still the Rabbi and the Monk.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Starbucked for the Last Time

Are you kidding me? Almost five bucks for a large latte? Clearly Starbucks expects their exisiting customers (all four of us, judging from the empty lines of late) to compensate for those who bolted after their last price increase.

Well guess what, Starbucks? I know how to make one kick-ass latte using the still-working Krups Expresso machine my parents gave me as a Christmas present in 1987. It'll just mean getting up ten minutes earlier each morning, but I'll do it.

Yes sirree, I'm boycotting Starbucks. I won't darken their doorstep one minute more. Well, as soon as they stop selling those tasty Pumpkin Spice lattes, that is.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Light in the Dark

Since Mom passed away seven weeks ago, my sister and I have been drifting through some sort of Stephen Kingish-type fog, trying to wrap our minds around all that happened. It still doesn't make sense and never will. How someone who was so vibrant and alive, someone so proactive about her health, so diligent about check-ups and annual exams, could harbor such a deadly illness without any symptoms.

And then, without even a fighting chance, die less than a month from her time of diagnosis.

To say we miss Mom sounds trite. Those words don't even begin to capture the gaping holes in our hearts. She wasn't just a parent but our best friend, our confidant, our cheerleader. We know that time will lessen our grief, but right now we can't foresee that day. The ache is too deep, the pain too searing.

On top of everything else, one week after Mom's service, I had to put her elderly and beloved dog, Holden to sleep, and then close my childhood home. Talk about an emotional tsunami.

But there has been one ray of light over these past seven weeks.

I have found myself surrounded by friends, co-workers and neighbors whose gestures of support have truly sustained me during this dark period. I really had no idea that people cared so much. And from their thoughtfulness I've garnered more comfort than they'll ever know.

Such as my best friend who never left my side during those first few days. I would have collapsed, figuratively and literally, had she not been there to hold me up. Or my brother-in-law, who has treated me with no less concern than he has his own wife. I have always suspected that my sister married a prince and now I know for sure.

My long-time friend from high school has phoned repeatedly, leaving voicemails that promise he's not a stalker, he just wants to make sure I'm okay. Friends that I haven't seen in ten and twenty years were kind enough to send thoughtful cards or make donations in my mom's name when they heard the news.

Others simply provided a shoulder to cry on. Like the day I was quietly sobbing at my desk and a co-worker came up behind me, put her arms around my shoulders, kissed the top of my head and without a word returned to her desk. On another emotional day, I opened my front door and found a gift bag. It contained a candle with a card from a neighbor I don't really know that well. She had heard the news and was offering her condolences with the hope that the blackberry scent might help me relax.

One painful revelation concerns two people whose total indifference has made me reconsider our relationships. One is someone I thought was a close friend and the other is my pastor. My pastor, for God's sake! Both know what transpired, yet haven't reached out even once, which hurts. Like it was a goldfish that died and not worth acknowledging. Their silence is as toxic as a cancer itself.

But just as a crisis reveals the worst in people, it also brings out the best. And I'm grateful for the kindness of those who have been there for me at a time when I didn't know I needed them.

I've learned that my life is, indeed, rich with those who are the best.
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