Comforting Words: Time to Say Good-bye

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Time to Say Good-bye

This might come as a shock to some of you, except for those who know me very well, but I hate going to hospitals, clinics or to doctors and dentists – as a patient that is. Strange for someone who takes such comfort in being an Intern Hospital Chaplain!

My resistance to anything medical being performed on me has much to do with a terrible experience I had as a child. It should have been a routine vaccination against one of the common childhood illnesses; however it turned out to be the ‘prick’ that to this day has me afraid of needles and the medical professionals who use them.

Since then, I will do anything to avoid going to see any medical professional. I remember once needing to be injected and asking the doctor whether he could not give me the stuff in the needle to drink instead!

Now, over thirty-odd years later the time has come to stop running from medical procedures. It is time to grow up and get myself to the laboratory and have them slap my breasts under some contraption! People, I am not thrilled at the idea and if I could find a way to drink or eat something that would provide my doctor with the information she needs – believe me I would.

But there is a time for everything – I was reminded of this yesterday. As I sat in the chapel at the hospital, I was reminded that at every stage we have to face what life brings in that moment, including sickness and death.

One of my favourite songs is "Time to Say Good-Bye" and I borrow its title as my Words of Comfort this week. I share them along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

Words from Scripture

From the Hebrew Scriptures:
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep; and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to through away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Words of Comfort
While many of you were either at work or had the pleasure to be out shopping or simply relaxing, I spent my Saturday morning into afternoon at a memorial service.

Attendance was not mandatory neither will I get a mark for being a ‘good student’. Nevertheless, once my Teaching Supervisor told us about these quarterly services that she conducts to remember those who made their transition at the hospital – I knew I would be there.

She asked me to do the readings but, being busy as she was and I guess confident that I would not botch it, she did not tell me which passages until the day before. It was not until I actually stood at the podium and started to read that the personal significance of the words hit me.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.

Later, Juds, who strangely enough decided to attend the service with me (I guess she wanted to see me in ‘action’), would comment that she thought I would not make it through the reading. “You teared up, I thought you wouldn't make it through” she said, “What happened?”

The chapel was full with family of people who had made their transition from this life in recent months and as I made eye contact with one particular woman my heart melted.

She and I had spoken for quite some time the day I called to extend the invitation to come to the service. Though I was a simply a voice on the other end of the telephone line, she felt comfortable telling me how painful life has been since her loved one passed on.

“People don’t understand how hard it is for me when they say such things like, you poor woman, you lost your husband,” she told me. Feeling the depth of her wounds, I explained that people were not intentionally being unkind, that they were simply at a loss for words and are expressing concern about how they think she might be feeling. We talked for a while longer and before we rang off from each other, she said she would try to come to the service.

Fast-forward several weeks later, as we made the final preparation before the start of the service, a woman quietly slipped into the chapel and sat to the rear. I passed by several times and noticed her sitting there but when I saw her shoulders softly shuddering, somehow I knew she was the woman on the telephone.

I slipped beside her and she looked up at me. To me it seemed that she recognised who I was without my having to say anything. We held hands as she continued to cry. “It has been so hard for me,” she said tearfully. “Yesterday would have been our fifty-fifth anniversary and it was so hard.”

Those words came to me as I read the passage and it was hard not to think about my own life and how will I be remembered. No, I was not concerned about whether there would be tears for me when I have passed on or whether people would have kind things to say.

My thoughts centered more on whether those who may sit in a similar service remembering my life could say; “She lived life to the fullest right to the end.” Being so close to sickness, death and the pain that the loved ones who stand by watching endure has caused me to question my own attitude to life.

“Am I living in such a way that enhances the lives of others?” is one of the questions that I ask myself. Another is “Am I living in such a way that when I die my loved ones will remember me with joy?”

According to Terry Cole-Whittaker, in her book “What You Think of Me is None of My Business,” if our relationships are not complete, if they are what she describes as dangling relationships, saying good-bye at the time of death, for example, becomes extremely difficult.

“To say ‘good-bye’ to a relationship,” she writes, “You must first have said ‘hello’ . . . You must have loved that other person, released him [or her], allowed him to be who he was and who he was not.”

Thinking about this brought me some comfort, enough to make me happy that I actually made the appointment to have the mammography, which my doctor insisted needs to be done. “Just to be on the safe side,” she said.

Although I was tempted to ask for a pill or something to drink instead of doing this test, which everyone who has ever done it tell me is not pleasant – I am thankful the technology exists.

I am a strong believer in the power of prayer. However, I am also convinced that the Divine did not give humanity the capacity to develop such medical technology to treat and even cure diseases for it not to be used.

Worse yet, I firmly believe that the Divine would not be ‘amused’ that having placed such creativity among us, for people like me, out of fear, not access the services.

Therefore, with my heart in my mouth and the thought that whatever the outcome, I am also thankful I will have another chance to say some more hellos.

She may never know this but I am so grateful to the dear lady who sat at the back of the chapel grieving the passing of her loved one of fifty-five years.

Her relationship may still not yet be completed and she may yet have said said good-bye but, she certainly taught me how to complete mine - even the ones that last fifty-five days.

Words from the Heart

Born to Live
Performed by Ann Mortifee on her Healing Journey album.

We were born to live, not just survive
Though the road be long and the rive wide
Though the seasons change and the willow bend
Though some dreams break and some others mend.

We were born to give and born to take
To win and lose and to celebrate
We were born to know and born to muse
To unfold our hearts, take a chance and choose.

We were born to love though we feel the thorn
When a ship sets sail to return no more
We were born to laugh and born to cry
To rejoice and grieve, just be alive.

We were born to hope and to know despair
And to stand alone when there’s no one there
We were born to trust and to understand
That in every heart there is an outstretched hand.

We were born to live, to be right and wrong
To be false and true, to be weak and strong
We were born to live, to break down the wall
And to know that life is to taste it all.

Blessings, until next week.


Blogger Kerry Doyal said...

sweet stuff


Fri. Jul. 01, 06:54:00 p.m. MDT  

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