Dear UUCF family, I want to say thank you. Thank you for all the care and compassion you have shown me since my mom’s death earlier this month. I have been so touched by the many cards and notes you’ve sent, the way you have reached out to me in meetings and at coffee hour on Sundays, the many-faceted kindness that is woven deep into the DNA of this congregation.
Many of you have asked how I’m doing. Of course I’m sad and I will always miss my mom. But I’m doing OK. I do feel sustained by so many blessings even in this tough time. And the emotions of grief go up and down. I know many of you will recognize this from seasons of grief in your own lives.
I have also been reflecting on how this time of grief may be affecting my ministry with you all. It seems to me that there are both challenges and gifts. On the challenge side, we know that the symptoms of grief include finding it hard to focus and feeling more tired than usual. I’m trying to follow the advice I would give anyone else in this situation – get lots of sleep, be kind to yourself, write things down so that your brain doesn’t have to keep track of everything by itself. It’s a bit humbling to realize that I may not be at 100% peak productivity right now. But I am finding it’s also a good reminder that I am human, and part of being human is being subject to the ebbs and flows of vigor and weakness, depletion and regeneration.
There are gifts along with the challenges, too. One of the things I loved about my mom is that she was profoundly helpful to many people, generous with advice and support, without being intrusive or forcing it on anyone. Since her death, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to embody that quality more deeply in my own life and ministry. Recently I caught a glimpse of my mom’s spirit in the words of another mentor of mine, Father Greg Boyle, SJ, the founder of Homeboy Industries. Listen to what he says:
“You have to opt for delight. My ministry has become more simple over the years. More about just receiving people. My days of wanting to rescue, save, liberate, free – I’m not tempted by any of that anymore. If you can just receive who people are, then you can stay anchored in joy and peace …
In my early years … I felt I could kind of turn on the light switch for people. But I discovered that I can’t, and no amount of me wanting that guy to have a life will ever be the same as him wanting to have one. [When] I realized that was the case, I have never been remotely close to burnout. It was life-changing … It was liberating. I had a light grasp on results. I had a light grasp on whatever the heck success means … It was a really healthy insight. It underscored that people are the agents and architects of their own lives; and it’s a privilege to assist them in any way.” (Quoted in “Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction,” March 2016)
Looking back, I think this attitude of delight, respect and willingness to help when asked is exactly what sustained my mom in her decades-long career in social work. It’s my honor to pick up the torch as best I can. In the days to come, I’ll be asking myself, how can I opt for delight, receive people and assist as I can? Thank you for allowing me to share this stage of my journey and to serve with you. It is a great privilege. I love you all.