Shuck and Jive

Monday, August 20, 2012


On the upstairs coffee table the change is piling up.   I empty the change out of my pockets there at night.     Every couple of weeks it would vanish.  It was kind of a game.  Zach would grab it--probably for cigarettes or gas or who knows.   Yesterday I told Lovely that he hadn't picked up the change and she said she used to leave things around, too.  She would leave for him leftover food especially of the meat and potato variety.    Now we will have to eat our own leftovers and spend our own change.

It is the little things that get me.   That hollow burning pain in my chest never leaves even as it changes in intensity.  It burns when I drive by the Dairy Queen, or Mellow Mushroom, or Lowe's, or the Roadrunner, or ETSU.  I haven't driven on the street by his apartment since we closed accounts with his landlord.   I don't like to drive to that side of town. 

On some days or on some parts of a day, when the chest burning is low, I think that I am coming along.  Then I realize the truth.  It shrieks through me like a January Montana wind.  He isn't here.  He isn't coming back.  Ever.   What does any of it matter?  The burning starts again.   It reminds me of Robert Frost:
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March. 
I have led worship three times.   This was the first I didn't have to hold back tears during the sermon.  I was doing pretty well until our organist, David, played "Be Still My Soul" during the offertory.  Then I started blubbering.   I guess I am just going to have to blubber through every damn song in the hymnal.

The funeral home has been very helpful in many ways.   I subscribe to a daily grief support--words of wisdom thing--via the email.  This was today's:
Your Needs Come First When Grieving 
  1. Express preferences. Pay attention to your preferences. Let others know what you can't or don't want to do. 
  2. Know your limits. If you are tired or don't feel like doing something, you can choose not to do it. The most important thing is your care. Your friends and family will understand if you do not join in some activities.
  3. Say no. If you are invited out, but do not feel like going, it is okay to say no. Others may want to see you out, as they do not like to see you in pain. If you choose to decline some activities, you do not need to give a reason.

That is nice to know.  In that spirit, here are some preferences. 

I hear tell that there is a presidential election this year.   I am not really that oblivious but I really don't care.  I will show up and vote for one of the suits, but it is all so shallow to me.  The only thing more shallow is Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) politics.    Many of those in my former life who were on the "other side of the aisle" have been gracious to us through this loss.   That matters to me.   I will go to the presbytery meeting and stay for worship and see people.  But I doubt I'll be present for the business.   I don't want to debate or to engage in decision-making or watch others do it.  I sure as hell don't want to fight.

I have resigned from every community and presbytery committee and board.  Every day when I open my e-mail I "unsubscribe" to the various newsletters of groups soliciting my righteous passion.     In regards to work, I am letting go of anything I have to run, plan for, organize, schedule, or moderate (except for the monthly session meeting).   Thankfully, I have a great secretary, Sandra, who can administrate a lot of this.

Also, I have a colleague, Rev. Don Steele, a retired PC(USA) minister who I wrote about previously.    Don is taking some of the load of working with committees and so forth.   We have given him the title, "Assistant to the Pastor."   Hardly a title for what he has done for me, my family, and my congregation.   This is all I am going to say about it, but I do hope our presbytery will recognize his gifts and receive him as a member.  As far as I am concerned, no minister can hold a candle to him.

For my part, I can lead worship.  I will do the radio show, Religion For Life.   I will do the funerals and the pastoral care and counseling, the weddings, the hospital, the conversations over coffee, and the meeting of new people.    I will hang out with the youth, but I won't run the program.    I am getting more and more requests for holy unions for same-gender couples.   I am glad the word is getting out about that.   Those are gratifying.   Don will help with all of this, too. 

I'll show up for stuff.   Sometimes I may not.   On some days I will just stay home.   Lovely doesn't have such flexibility with her job.  But since I do, I will take advantage of it so I can be more present to her.   

I will also find ways to grieve for my son both with Lovely and Daughter and the extended family and alone.

So let it be written. So let it be done.


  1. John I still cry when I hear Morning Has Broken. I cry because it reminds me of my father. The choir did it on the day I was baptised. I felt as if Dad was there with me. It made my heart hurt, but it felt good knowing Dad's memory will always be a part of me even 10 years later since his passing. I still cry when I hear Greatest Love Of All (Whitney Houston). Even though I was never much of a fan of Whitney Houston, Ray my late partner was a huge fan of hers. That song like Morning Has Broken, makes me cry and makes my heart hurt all over again, but it also makes me smile through the tears, I lost Ray 13 years ago. God had my Dad and Ray now. But he shares their memory with me. John you will always grieve. Even as time goes by, there will always be something that will rip that would open. Time doesn't soften the pain. It just makes it more tolerable to deal with. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think of my Dad, Ray or my Grandfather. John, you and Beverly and Katy will heal and your grief will start to fade, but only in your own time and on your own terms. It is good that you resigned from the different comities and other things for now. Concentrating on your grief and pain is the most important. Peace be with you John. I am sending lots of warm hugs your way.


  2. I came across a site that helped others I have known. Poetry always speaks to me and I hope it can you as well.

  3. Thanks Bruce. Peace to you, too.

    Alex, I am a sucker for poetry!