...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Death, Hammer Chords, Amazing Endings and Such

I know death is not really in vogue. That's part of the reason we have "Celebration of Life" services instead of memorials or funerals. But like the hammer chords in a symphony, death is the finale from this life. And death can be for life what hammer chords are to great symphonies.

This morning one of the first things I did was to air Beethoven's 8th, the symphony with 20+ hammer chords. It sort of sets the record for such in music history. Thanks to Bob Dugan, former music teacher, band director at Horace Mann Middle School in Lakewood, Ohio, I first heard this amazing ending in 7th grade and have loved it ever since.

As a Christian pastor, one gets way above average exposure to death and grief. The story of each ending is punctuated by hammer chords which speak of life, not always just painful, often helpful and healing, consummating the parts of the symphony which may have not made sense, tying the whole together in a way that transcends our judgments and labeling. Or reasoning it out: "It was such a blessing" or "It was God's will."

Maybe this gift can only be seen and received by those closest to, most intimate with the departed. I think of the story of Jesus and Mary in the garden. In the Gospels, most all of Jesus' appearances after Easter were to those closest to him. Our discomfort or fear, as well as our distancing from death easily deafens our ears to the hammer chords sounded by the end of life.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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