Two Months

Andre & Yolanda Wedding 059 Crop

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and our faith has been in vain.

I Corinthians 14:12—14

Today, June 10, 2009, marks two months since my mother’s death.  Obviously today was a difficult day.  It was made even more difficult by the fact that I received a confirmation letter today that my ministry is being discontinued effective the 16th of June.  The sense of loss is overwhelming. 

There are other issues.  One of my sisters has stopped talking to me—for what reason, I don’t know.  I have called her several times but she doesn’t return the calls.  I know she is grieving, but so are all of us.  The reason for her silence is somewhat baffling.  I try not to dwell on it, but it is difficult, especially on days like today.

I found another Emily Dickinson poem that I’m including here.  It’s from a collection entitled Time and Eternity.  The poem is “The Last Night that She Lived”

The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made Nature different

We noticed smallest things,–
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as t’were.

That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.

We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered, scarce,
Consented, and was dead.

And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.

Blessed Memory

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

I Thessalonians 4:13-14
Last Monday, May 18, I visited the cemetery for the first time since my Mother’s funeral. I was on vacation, on my way to Illinois, but I wanted to spend some time visiting with Mom. It was a warm, sunny morning, quite a contrast from the rainy day when we buried her. My wife, Linda, and I spent some time admiring the breathtaking scenery. Mom is buried in a section called the Garden of Serenity, which is a very appropriate name for this section. It is toward to rear of the cemetery, away from the highway traffic. The grass is a lush green, and there are plenty of trees in the background. The area must have been a farm at one time, nonetheless, it is very tranquil and lends itself to having a conversation with a dear, departed loved one.

I happened to have in my glove compartment, several ceramic “coquís” which I had bought as souvenirs when we vacationed in Puerto Rico back in 2007. The coquí is a frog that is unique to Puerto Rico and not found anywhere else. I took two of them and placed them in the area where the headstone will eventually be, next to a plant my sisters had planted on Mother’s Day.

It was a pleasant visit. I felt at ease in the presence of the freshly covered grave. The rich, brown dirt made it easy to distinguish, almost making me hope the grass never grows over, so as to keep its distinctiveness. Mom always liked to stand out, to be the center of attention. At this point in this area, she is. It is still so hard to imagine her not being around.

Numbness

So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
John 16:22 (NRSV)
Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t bring myself about to write something on Mother’s Day, which was yesterday, May 10th. It was not only the first Mother’s Day without my mother, but it was also exactly one-month to the day that she died.
Surprisingly, I was pretty composed throughout my two worship services. Only once, when a parishioner who hadn’t seen me since the death approached me to express his condolences, did I come close to crying or being overcome by sadness. I did mention to the congregation that it had been one-month at the time that I wished them a Happy Mother’s Day.
The English congregation which I served yesterday, First Lutheran Church, had a breakfast for mothers before their service; while La Trinidad, my parish, had a luncheon after our worship. So I was bookended by reminders of celebrations I will no longer share with my own mother.
Years ago we used to take Mom out to dinner on this day. Eventually she became weary of the ritual and insisted on cooking for us, something which I considered ridiculous. A couple of times after I began my ministry and could no longer join them for dinner, she came to church to worship with us. It was as much a joy for me to have her see me in action, as it was a source of pride for her. I remember specifically three years ago that she met some of my parishioners for the first time and they were enthralled with her. Recently that couple returned after a long absence and almost immediately they asked about Mom. It was on Palm Sunday and I had to share with them the unfortunate news that she was in the last stages of life. They were deeply grieved to hear the information.
Two of my sisters went to visit the gravesite yesterday and spent some time talking to her and praying over her. My plan is to go next Sunday after I finish with my pastoral duties.
I guess numbness is the only way I can describe the way I feel at this time. It’s as if I’m merely going through the motions and barely getting things done. This is probably a dangerous admission to make for someone in my position, but there is no sense of enthusiasm, no feeling of enjoyment. My hope is to recapture that at some point, but when?
I close with a poem by César Vallejo, a peruvian poet, which somewhat approaches what I am feeling at this time. I found the English translation so I will publish both it and the Spanish.
Los heraldos negros
por César Vallejo.
Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes … ¡Yo no sé!
Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos,
la resaca de todo lo sufridose
empozara en el alma… Yo no sé!

Son pocos; pero son… Abren zanjas obscuras
en el rostro más fiero y en el lomo más fuerte.
Serán talvez los potros de bárbaros atilas;
o los heraldos negros que nos manda la Muerte.

Son las caídas hondas de los Cristos del alma,
de alguna fe adorable que el Destino blasfema.
Esos golpes sangrientos son las crepitaciones
de algún pan que en la puerta del horno se nos quema.

Y el hombre… Pobre… pobre! Vuelve los ojos, como
cuando por sobre el hombro nos llama una palmada;
vuelve los ojos locos, y todo lo vivido
se empoza, como charco de culpa, en la mirada.
Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes… Yo no sé!

Black Messengers
There are in life such hard blows . . . I don’t know!
Blows seemingly from God’s wrath; as if before them
the undertow of all our sufferings
is embedded in our souls . . . I don’t know!

There are few; but are . . . opening dark furrows
in the fiercest of faces and the strongest of loins,
They are perhaps the colts of barbaric Attilas
or the dark heralds Death sends us.

They are the deep falls of the Christ of the soul,
of some adorable one that Destiny Blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the crepitation
of some bread getting burned on us by the oven’s door

And the man . . . poor . . . poor!
He turns his eyes around, like
when patting calls us upon our shoulder;
he turns his crazed maddened eyes,
and all of life’s experiences become stagnant, like a puddle of guilt, in a daze.
There are in life such hard blows . . . I don’t know!
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