I have settled in ‘for the duration’ with my Mom and Dad at their home on the Oregon Coast. I am helping my Dad care for my Mom as she is in the final stages of her illness.*
In our church year, we are in the time of the disciples just beginning to realize the the promise of the Resurrection has been fulfilled.
In the reading for Friday, 6 April we have the Gospel of Luke 24:1-12 where Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them see the angels at the tomb who tell the women that Jesus is no longer among the dead, but has risen.
I don’t really have time for the story of the resurrection this year. My attention is focused on doing my best to keep Mom comfortable and to work with Dad so neither of us burn out while caring for her. Not only are we living day-to-day, but from moment-to-moment, and from task-to task.
Mom and I were watching the new series of Call the Midwife and a line jumped out at me:
Waiting for a death is like waiting for a birth, we must find ways to occupy ourselves.
~Call the Midwife, Season 7, Episode 1.
Helping out in a household where someone needs full time care is all about doing the next thing in front of you: doing little jobs for them, washing dishes, making meals, washing laundry, picking up the mail, buying groceries, running errands all have to be done and done in a way that fits in around the energy and schedule of the patient– because her comfort is the paramount reason all of these chores need to get done.
The thing I have found, which is reflected in the quote from ‘Call the Midwife,’ is that each of these necessary tasks becomes its own small ministry for my mom or dad.
At home, my husband does the laundry and I fold and put it away. Here, I not only wash, dry, fold, and put away, I spend time prepping the whites the way I know Mom likes (treat for stains, soak in Oxy-clean, wash on the bulky setting). I do each step mindfully and try to give it my full attention and it becomes a spiritual practice of its own.
When Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women came to the tomb with the spices they had prepared for the body of Jesus they were dealing with the practical reality of the work a death entails. In Luke’s telling of the story, the women had seen Jesus at the crucified. They had watched as his body was taken down and given to Joesph of Arimathea. They had seen it laid in the tomb and they had gone home to prepare what was needful for such a burial.
They had gone from task to task, maybe not thinking beyond the needs of the immediate moment, until it was time to go to the tomb and do the work of preparing the body of Jesus according to what was proper and would do him honor in death.
When they got to the tomb, all their plans and ideas were thrown into disarray. The body of Jesus was gone and here were two angels telling them that the promise of resurrection had been fulfilled.
I wonder if some of them weren’t angry at this revelation. Grief is a strange beast and I, personally, am not great about having my plans upset– especially if I am emotionally invested in them. I could see myself being bewildered and angry at Jesus for upending my plans for the day by not staying dead.
I don’t know what feelings the women had as they saw the angels and heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection; just as I don’t know how I will feel when my Mom eventually becomes to weak to stay in this world with us.
I am pretty sure she won’t rise on the 3rd day. (If she was planning on it, she would have told me in no uncertain terms by now.) Other than that I have no idea of what life without her will be like.
For now, I don’t have to think about that. Mom, Dad and I have a pact: We live in the present moment and don’t think much beyond the needs of the day.
Like the women who went home and prepared the spices after they had seen Jesus laid in the tomb, I am occupying myself and not thinking about the moment I must go to the tomb.
*I am very lucky to have a husband, housemate, and daughter who support and encourage me in this. I am also lucky that my Dad, my Mom, and I all seem to work well with each other in various combinations.
All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway.
Lessons for Sundays and the Daily Office can be found here (pdf)
Mission Clare is a good resource for daily morning and evening prayer online
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.