Yesterday I had that overwhelming anxiety that I thought was all in the past. I had to remind myself to breathe. I was glad I didn’t need to go to the grocery store; that’s the worst place when you’re anxious, so many things to see, and it’s just ridiculously huge. There were times when I had to cling to the cart and wanted one of the kids along as security. I don’t like feeling the way I did then.
Part of the trouble was not enough sleep, after being called into the hospital in the middle of the night. But that wasn’t all of it.
There’s something about being a pastor in a small church that I hadn’t fully realized until the past week or so. You don’t have to stay very long to really care about the people in your congregation. It’s hard to practice a professional detachment when the emotional terms of your call are to love the people. When they die, ergo, it is a loss not just to the community, but to you. And, as is the way of loss, it brings up other old feelings of loss. As I sat with Bill, I thought about how I wasn’t there when my dad died. It was too quick and I was too far away. Someone else was with him, just as I was with Bill. As I met with Pattie’s family, I remembered my mother, also dead of cancer in her 60’s, and thought of what a wonderful grandmother she was, how patiently she played with #1 Son and his Ninja Turtle figures on her kitchen table or on the beach at Boothbay Harbor.
I needed to grieve.
And so, when no one else showed up for our meditation circle last night, Roberta and I just sat and talked, candle lit on the table, and talked about what it was like when we lost our parents. She is 70, but she still calls her mother "mumma," just what my father called his. I’m a long way from the home of my childhood, and my parents are gone, and my brother is far away and not often seen. But in this church, we are a family, connected in our joys and our griefs.
Driving home, I realized I was breathing again.