Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Brother's Birthday

I have said in sermons lately, “There are some members of the Family of God who are no longer receiving Christmas cards from me.” Just one of my patented cheeky little comments; just something I threw out there to let you know that I understand all too well the divisions that happen in the body of Christ. But today I regret saying that because today is my brother’s birthday.

For clarity, I have two brothers; I am the middle of three boys, born about a year apart from each other. I am very close to my younger brother, but my older brother and I have not had a meaningful conversation in years. My older brother is the one having a birthday today. I think the last birthday card I sent him was about ten years ago. There was no fight. There were no hateful or angry words. The conversation just kind of stopped. After another year of unanswered gestures I decided to let our relationship simply drift away. It was a decision I felt I had to make to keep my hurt from turning into anger; a decision that hasn’t always worked out like it should. On days like these the feelings are like being sunburned under your shirt: no one knows that anything’s wrong until someone pats you just a little too hard.

On days like these it occurs to me that my brother may never meet my children. On days like these I remember how close we once were. My older brother was the one who dragged me to church when church was exactly what I needed in my life. I remember the two of us standing in our kitchen, talking for hours about faith and life and whatever else came up. I loved to make my brother laugh. Now we don’t even talk.

I have done my part in punching holes in the Body of Christ. And although I might make light of it in an effort to hide my own guilt and pain, I know as well as anyone that it isn’t funny. It isn’t funny, it isn’t inevitable, and it isn’t God’s will for us to be separated from one another. I will do all I can to keep our disagreements from turning into divisions. When the Spirit shows us the way, I will seek our reconciliation. And in those times we cannot even speak, I will pray for you and look for the day when nothing will separate us again.

Today is my brother’s birthday and I am particularly conscious of all those who are absent from my life.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Lois

As a pastor, I learned a long time ago that there is no “right” way to deal with loss; Kübler-Ross gave us some stages that we ought to expect during the grieving process, but we all face our pain in our own way. That being said, Lois Rodriguez died last night and I find myself wondering if I'm feeling what I'm supposed to feel.
Sherry and I adopted Lois from the pound when she was a kitten. I chose her because, unlike the other kittens, she came to the front of the cage and attacked my finger. Through the years I would come to identify that behavior as “feisty” rather than “playful.” She was not a lap-cat, she abhorred being held, and would usually hide when company was over. It isn't as though she was necessarily mean – she would sleep on the bed and enjoyed being brushed – it's just that she wasn't what most people would consider affectionate.
But Lois was a part of my life through some of the biggest moments of my life. We got her a few months before we were married (I often joked that we got married so that Lois would be “legitimate”). She was around when I was ordained. She was a bit annoyed at the birth of my children. Many people are affected by the loss of a pet in much the same way people are affected by the loss of a family member. I understand this: in many ways pets are members of the family. But that's not what I'm feeling right now. Lois and I didn't really have a member-of-the-family kind of relationship. It was more like Lois was a slightly irritable roommate who was forced to reluctantly move with us every time we did.
Things had been good between us lately, which makes me happy; I might feel a little guilty if we weren't on good terms when she passed. Our latest move had given her a place of her own and I think she appreciated the freedom. And as it turns out, Sherry and I had both spent some quality time with her last night. Her health had been declining for some time now and it seems she went peacefully.
Still, I have a Lois-shaped hole in my life now and I think it will be a while before I know how to feel about it.