Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Distracted in Guatemala

Amongst all of the amazing encounters and experiences here in Antigua, I feel distracted.  When I am active - praying in pre-surgery with patients or visiting on the ward - I'm focused.  But in those moments

idleness - of quiet - my mind wanders and tears threaten.

While here in Guatemala, I heard from my brother Paul's daughter-in-law that his wife, Dee, was going into hospice.  At the same time, Leigh and Dave were exploring moving Paul into hospice as well.  His dementia continues to progress.  He has a myriad of health issues following his major stroke and by-pass several years ago.  He's not eating much and he's dizzy.  Most certainly, they have both lived longer than expected because of the love and care they received and continue to receive from Leigh and Dave.

During some "down time" at Obras, I went into the sanctuary of the cathedral.  I inhaled the sweet aroma of incense.  I lost myself in the brilliant purple and white swags as well as the art.  But when I saw the votive candles left by parishioners - petitions to God - I started to lose it.  I so wanted to light one for Paul and Dee but my quetzales were in my locker.  

Although I have never had an "easy" relationship with my youngest older brother, I fondly remember the big brother who liked to brush my hair, who took me to a Styx concert, and who drove my friends and I all around Downers Grove so we could Christmas carol in subzero temperatures.  While remembering the past, I also acknowledge that Dee was the best thing that ever happened to Paul and I weep some more.

As I grow older, I realize that grief is not an "event" in our lives but a constant.  We are always working through one loss or another.  Death, loss of physical capacity, dreams that will never come to fruition because we've run out of time.  Grief, however, is that state which can also make us stronger, more reflective, and grateful.

I have no answers.  I have no words of wisdom.  But in the pew of the old cathedral, I acknowledge that I am not the only one.  If we listen attentively, we hear the echoes of our own grieving in the stories of others.  As we relate our stories of loss to one another, may we find support.  Love.  May we acknowledge the God who knows all about grief.

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