In this blog I’ve been writing about the possibility of change in my life. I’ve been anticipating the unexpected as my husband and I think about a new career for him and where that might lead us, envisioning us in a new community and a new home. I have been hopeful and excited, even when my own plans haven’t seemed to materialize. I trust that God has something better in mind.
I have been in Nashville this week completing a two-year program for pastors I began when I was leading a local church. This program was designed for pastors fairly new to ministry who wanted companions on their journeys, people who understood that God designed us for community and wanted to live that out in their ministries. I couldn’t have predicted two years ago that my journey would lead out of local church pastorate, but it did. First to finish my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, and then into waiting for the next right thing.
While I have been reconnected with these Companions in Ministry, my extended family (whom I haven’t written about because their story is not necessarily mine to tell) has been gathered in its own sort of community. A family journeying with medical staff formed a community of care and concern while one of our beloved suffers the tragedy of contracting West Nile Virus from an organ transplant. The past months we have been hopeful. Hopeful that there would be a definitive diagnosis, treatment and cure. And when that couldn’t happen, hopeful that he would qualify for a transplant, receive one, and go on to live a healthy life with his wife.
Last night I spoke with my husband to find out that our dear one has no hope of recovery, no hope for any quality of life. Just last week, before the virus had taken its terrible toll, the doctors and family all had hope for a full recovery. In our closing worship service in Nashville this morning, Trevor Hudson, an amazing spiritual pastor from South Africa, who had been talking to us about the gospel themes of friendship, spoke of hope, and how devastating it is when hope brings us pain. He didn’t have a clue about my family circumstances, but he could have been speaking right to us. When our dashed hopes bring us to deep pain, it is there in our suffering that we struggle to claim a deeper even richer hope.
I thought about my family in California. In the next few days, after we have all had a chance to say goodbye, life support will be removed and then, horrible as it seems we will hope for death. A good death. And beyond that, what will we hope for? I will hope for the grieving spouse a reserve of inner strength, the companioning of family and friends, the ability to walk into the darkness and not be consumed by it, the image of God’s light, however it comes to her, to carry her through the days, months, and years ahead as she lives out a life she did not expect or plan for.
In the meantime, we cry for our loss, for all we are going to miss and are just beginning to sense, and for the loss our dear one has suffered. And in the pain of hope, I am thankful for the small mercies. That neither my husband nor I have jobs, that our house has not sold, that we are still home in the same small town where our extended family lives, that we can be present in some small way to honor their lives and their suffering and their hope as family, as companions in our communal life.