I’ve much appreciated many expressions of sympathy and the promise of prayers this past week. The outpouring of support from my internet friends, as well as parishioners and my staff colleagues, has been very heartening.
My brother was a champion swimmer in high school. His state butterfly record stood for decades. My dad remarked that the butterfly was the most demanding of the competitive strokes. And I heard the family pride embedded in that statement. I approve of my brother’s later-life approach to swimming, as I heard it related from his stepdaughter and grandson. He was also a teacher. It wasn’t simply enough for a person to outpace others. The importance of bringing along the young, the inexperienced, the untutored: this was part of what Lynn also lived. There was not so much the loss of competitive swimming after high school, but allowing his expertise there to metamorphose for a different purpose.
My mind plays tricks. On the day of hearing the news, my rational side began making calls to family back in Rochester. But soon I worried that I had misheard the news. Had I just alarmed my family back East by overblowing what was just a serious traffic injury? I would drive across Iowa and find my brother holding court among family and friends in a hospital bed. I would be embarrassed for having sent up tragic false news.
I had a similar experience the May after my father died. My wife and I were at the mall, and I remarked I needed to get to the card shop to pick out something for my dad. Anita stopped for a moment and asked, what did I say? It took me another few seconds to realize my routine of selecting and sending a Father’s Day card was over. I would never send such an item again.
Needless to say, my first ears heard right, and my rational mind had taken over. Making calls. Driving carefully. Breathing in. Then out.
So the encounter with loss continues. My wife’s advice to be gentle with self this week is important. Rather than having two sides have a war within, I’ve opted to let the rational and the affective have a gentle exchange with one another. Not emotional enough? Ah, let’s sit with that a bit. Tearing up at the sound of particular music? Let’s sit with that, too. Even bothered by the relentless good words about my brother? That’s fine, too. People say what they need to say. My brother was not a perfect man. He didn’t have to be.
At the liturgy yesterday, I was heartened by the great congregational singing. That was an encounter with fullness, the fullness of hope we place with God, and trusting that, no matter what our loss, God fills.