Today, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the morning brought news that each of us never requests. Our nephew Brian has learned his inoperable brain cancer is causing more difficulties. My dear clergy friend, Joanne Carlson Brown, shared last night that her spouse, Christie Newbill, had more than 5 hours of brain tumor surgery yesterday afternoon. The surgeon reports she removed 2/3’s of the tumor and it has metastasized. M my new friend, Hannah  continues her struggle with restricted anorexia in a Seattle Eating Disorder Clinic. A dear friend, Bill Stanley—his wife, Carol shared with us—had a stroke yesterday…they live in North Carolina and are both therapists. I hope to visit my Seattle buddies next week.
Into all that, a valued clergy friend, Reverend Peter Bauer, shared a reflection on dealing with the “hurts” [my word] of living. I found it so perceptive and helpful. He’s given me permission to share in this blog. Peter is an United Church of Christ Minister, Therapist, LTC,MS,USA [Ret], Adjunct Professor Department of Social Work, College of Public Policy, University of Texas At San Antonio. I hope you’ll read…and value Peter’s perceptions.
It’s Not a Failure, it’s More Information by Rev. Peter E. Bauer
A man went in to see his doctor. He had not been seen for any medical appointments for quite some time. The doctor was concerned after an initial examination and therefore ordered some more tests to be done. Finally, the results came back and they indicated that this man had developed pancreatic cancer. The man recalled that the doctor came into the examining room and told him, “Wrap it up, dude, it’s over.”
Now this is one way to deal with the whole notion of human finitude, but it’s not one that I would advise. Life can be uncertain enough. You can do everything you know in order to stay healthy, and have a well-adjusted psychological and spiritual life and then — Bam! — when you least expect it, adversity can strike.
As The Grateful Dead reminded us:
“‘Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door.” (From Uncle John’s Band.)
Trauma can make a person feel like that they are a failure. Someone can return from serving in combat during a war, survive a car accident, go through a painful divorce, lose one of their children to death, or lose an elderly parent to Alzheimer’s disease and guess what, they will be tempted to feel like a failure.
Why can’t we, in our society, help people to navigate these painful passages in life, in a more healing fashion? Even the Church at times is not very supportive of people. I know of someone who had taken their parent, then suffering from late stage Alzheimer’s disease to church. It was a big struggle, getting the parent dressed, and transporting the parent and their walker in the car to the church and then getting them into the church. During the adult Bible study, hardly anyone said anything to either of them. The person later related, “It was like they were afraid of catching something.” The person later went to see the minister of this church in order to get some support, to which the minister replied, “Oh, I can’t see your parent, they remind me too much of my mother.”
Really! Where is the compassion, the “caritas?” It must have taken a wrong exit off of the freeway.
Living through severe grief is no fun, it’s not an “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” moment. People have a tendency to get nervous and anxious whenever they encounter illness, make that chronic illness, let alone death.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me over the years, in my role as clergyperson, “Oh, I’ll leave that to you. . .”
Gee, what am I — the bellboy at the gates of heaven?
Maybe, what might be more helpful would be to help facilitate conversations with others regarding loss and death, as being more information regarding what it means to be human.
One of my former now deceased ministerial mentors stated, when he received his honorary Doctorate Of Ministry degree from a church-related private university,
“I’m more human than I am divine.”
That’s an honest affirmation. As humans who are struggling with what it means to be human in our relationship with the divine, however we understand the divine, that’s as good a place as any to start the work.
This season of Lent is one that is marked by movement, by change, by different perspective. That’s what makes this time uneasy for some people, especially people who do not want to change.
The Good News, however, is that what we experience in life, the good, the bad and the in-between is more information about what it means to live a human life, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure and that you need to do remedial work or “a do-over.”
May the times of transition that we experience in life be ones of enlightenment and growth in body, mind and spirit, this holy season and always.
May it be so.