Not My Place

Yesterday morning found me at the Peaslee Funeral Home. With my family, I greeted people as they came to honor my father’s life and death. His cousins I hadn’t seen since the 1980’s; my Aunt Marilyn’s neighbors, friends, and coworkers; people my parents met when they moved to Daffodil Hill; coworkers and friends of my siblings, all entering their lives after I moved too far away to know more than their names. We found ourselves in the same place, saying God-be-with-you to my father together. After prayers and tears, taps and flag folding, we met up again on the patio of the Governor’s Inn. Here we shared food, drink, and stories. Sitting at white tables on a warm September afternoon, we heard stories and told our own.

My cousin Marna sat with me. I hadn’t had time to talk with her in decades, really – just quick catch-ups at various weddings and memorial services over the past few decades. For the first time since we were children, we had a true conversation. We talked about my father, and how he and her father took us swimming and boating on warm summer days. She told me stories about our grandmother and grandfather, both long since gone. I heard about her children and she talked with mine. She met my husband for the very first time. I saw all the delicate family webs that have connected us reveal themselves in her stories and her laughter, her humor and her compassion. In our meeting, we spun new threads; my children and husband were woven into her life’s story, and her children resurfaced in mine. With a hug, we left to resume our places in the daily routines that shape our lives.

Marna’s place in my father’s life story is not my place, and my place is not hers. What she shares with me, and what I share with her are glimpses of a much larger pattern that was my father’s life. It stretched far beyond what I have seen or will ever see. The same holds true for every one of us gathered together in grief and loss – so many stories, such a brilliant and intricate life. How sacred is any life, and how hidden from any one person’s place. How many people are connected to me through my father’s life? How many blessings have come from these unseen and never-to-be-seen people? Living and dead, distant and nearby, there is an infinitely complex and gracious web that binds me to them. It’s not my place to know it completely; it’s just my place to be grateful.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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