And this is Lent…

And this is Lent…

Thursday started off well.

I visited a woman 101 years old. Despite her age and sleepiness at the time of my visit, she was able to flash a twinkling eye and a sweet smile as we conversed.

It slid pretty much downhill from there.

About an hour later I found myself staring into the face of a young man in a coffin, who had been cut down at 20 years old by a drive-by shooter. His peers and family members wailed and contorted their bodies with a grief they could not contain. Some found it hard to catch their breath. Some fell to the ground in limp agony.

I had visited the home of this young man’s grandfather the day before where many of the same family members were mourning the older man’s death. I sat with them for about 3 hours as waves of alternating emotions flowed through the house. In the end, when they removed the deceased, a parade of people shaking in holy pain followed the body to the coach.

Today, they gathered before the grandson’s casket. Even I, an outsider, was numb.

Over the next few hours I got a bit of a “break” as I engaged in a couple of “normal” visits. Normal, that is, if you consider that what I do is sit and talk with people who are sure to die soon, and with their loved ones, who are soon to take that dreaded walk up to the front of some morbid chapel to view a lifeless body they once embraced as a living, breathing, loving family member.

Then it was back to another of those funeral homes for more consoling of families and friends saying goodbye to (1) a World War II veteran who was in the Battle of the Bulge, (2) a Shriner who devoted himself to showing charity to children everywhere, but whose own children were left wondering why he never showed it to them. Death can raise a lot of dust too.

I went to my car and was doing some paperwork when I received a phone call. One of our best friends, barely able to talk, told me his son had just taken his own life. It sucked the breath right out of me. For a moment I couldn’t push any words out.

Gail and I spent the rest of the evening with a group of stunned, red-eyed, helpless feeling friends as we gathered around dad and mom and tried to just be with them best we could. We finally shuffled our way out the door and drove home in silence. I turned the TV on just to distract me for awhile and then went to bed.

And this is Lent. Dust to damn dust.

I am so over it all.

23 thoughts on “And this is Lent…

  1. Chaplain Mike,
    try a retreat for a long weekend and see if it helps you . . . . just getting away for a while where it’s quiet, doesn’t have to be a monastery, but that works also . . . . some rest, good meals, peace

    a time-out


  2. Pain, it’s everywhere. Pain, it’s everyone. It’s everywhere and everyone.[. Just not on the same day in the same place. Tough one Mike. Blessings to you and get some rest.


  3. There is a process in Christianity sometimes known as ’embracing the leper’ when a caregiver is experiencing the pain of those they came to help.
    Sometimes God has permitted Christian people to be opened to the pain of others in this way, for a reason that is known only to Him.

    Many have felt this pain before in a transforming way that deepens the heart so that God can then use a person to bring hope that is needed, so we are not to fear this pain that is borne on behalf of others. Something holy there is about weeping with those who weep.
    Those who bear the burdens of others and suffer together with them must be very dear to Our Lord, to be called by Him to embrace the pain of others in this way.
    This is not the end of the story.
    There is another chapter coming that tells of the filling and healing of hollowed-out of hearts broken by grief because people loved those who suffered. And that’s a good chapter.


  4. I don’t know how you do it, Chaplain Mike. You, your co-workers, and the suffering people you console have my heartfelt sympathy. I can’t imagine how you cope at your job, but when what you do involves your friends, it must be incredibly painful. I hope you, and they, find peace, somehow.


  5. When I think of your work both on this blog and as a chaplain, I am reminded of what Eugene Petersen wrote about the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs:
    “Lady Wisdom is present not only to make it possible to pursue wholeness but also to deal with brokenness.”

    I appreciate you, Mike.


  6. Oh Lord our God, when the storm is loud, and the night is dark, and the soul is sad, and the heart oppressed; then, as weary travelers, may we look to Thee; and beholding the light of Thy love, may it bear us on, until we learn to sing Thy song in the night. Amen.
    George Dawson

    This prayer was in my prayer book a few days ago.

    Praying for your heart, soul, and mind…what a week.


  7. Yes.

    And I cannot imagine losing a family member to a drive-by shooting. Yet such drive-by shootings happen on a regular basis in the poorer sections of cities around the country.


  8. C.M. is a better person than many of us; that means each time he stands with those he helps through their grief, their suffering and death, he dies a little bit too. There is no other way to really stand with suffering, dying people. It’s why Jesus did not choose to avoid the cross.


  9. Mike, you need a chaplain. You’ve been wearing the grief for too many people lately. God bless you and Gail along with those you minister to.


  10. Oh Mike, I can’t fathom the pain our friend is going through. The suicide of one’s child has got to be the worst. Depression can kill someone, you’d better believe it. If you know someone going through depression, urge them to get help. Urge them with all the passion and compassion you have. You literally might save a life. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “You never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have”. Christ have mercy.


  11. When everything is broken, sometimes the best we can is the only thing we can do — sit with the broken pieces. Hang in there, C.M.


  12. And this is Lent. Dust to damn dust.

    I am so over it all.

    “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” — Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable


  13. “There is a grief that can’t be spoken, there’s a pain goes on and on” (Eddie Raymayne-Les Meserables)
    Grace and peace to you, Mike — with concern and prayers.


  14. CM, Sometime in life the best that can be said of events in life is that it just stinks. No candy coating a exceptional bad day you had .

    I will say this with great sincerity , What if you had not been there for any of the people you encountered on this sucky day journey. Your presence in each situation was not good for you personally but I believe it was good for the people overcome with grief and those in a bad situation. Bad for you that you were there but good for them. I know you know this, but becoming burned out or just overwhelmed by life can happen to the best and strongest of us.

    One thing I learned from seeing up close a good combat medic and most were real good combat medics is they stayed with and talked the wounded especially badly hurt men The urgent call to rally, to stay with them, to just be there and the effort to hep them was something inspiring. The medics did the best they could and did things and made choices that were terrible to make but somebody had to.. I swear to this day, I believe they talked some badly wounded into not dying. Such is the power of being there at a really bad time for those who need you.
    Nothing worse than loading up a dust off copter and seeing the dust off medic overwhelmed but they were great and stoic

    I am straying here but trying to recap, I am thankful for those who voluntarily put themselves in the mist of a sucky, bad, terrible, what can you say situation. It is not good but someone has to do it. What could be worse than triage and deciding who goes out first, Huey could take 3 stretchers and 3 in seats. Anyway, as always things will get better, that is life and you are not alone in this feeling and are entitled to well earned venting.

    When you turn on TV in todays world to feel better, you know it is the mother of all bad days. Even the encourager has to be encouraged. I am sure everyone you touched and were “with” that day was glad you were there or glad they could call you.

    I say this as a person who now tries to avoid every bad situation he can , so like Gunga Din , you are a better man than me.


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