There are times in life when certain events reoccur and a pattern is discovered.
This past week, I received a text from a former parishioner that another former parishioner had died the day after Christmas. I get these from time to time, especially as my pastoral career continues and I have 6 congregations in 4 different communities in my past. But Gio was young, 26 years old. I don’t know the circumstances of his death, but I know he suffered from sickle cell anemia. I visited him at Columbus Children’s Hospital during one of those episodes. He was gentle and hospitable even though he was in stark pain. I had a better understanding of why he put Superman emblems all over his car.
Then later that evening, while we were all in our pajamas, the doorbell rang. One of Meredith’s parishioners had a Christmas present…for me. It was the license plate frame from her husband’s truck. Don passed away suddenly a few months ago. His funeral was amazing. His widow is enduring her first Christmas without him. I had told her about Don’s license plate frame (“normal people scare me”) and before the Christmas pageant she approached me to say that she had a Christmas gift for me. I was amused and deeply moved. Meredith has been there for her throughout her grief. I sensed as I saw her on our porch that she was “gifting” me in her grief.
We all have moments of these crossings. But I surmise that clergy see these the crossings on a much more frequent basis than most. Because our industry is relationship-based, relationships based specifically on love of others. This love and these connections help us see pain frequently and also help us see healing, victory and courage frequently as well. All of this adds deep perspective to holidays and life.