2 weeks ago I gave up the word “busy.” I picked this word because, as a priest, I am busy during Lent. I am busy with planning, leading worship, sitting in meetings, going to conferences, complaining to colleagues, etc. Like many who work for a living, while balancing a family, I am busy. But, I notice that when I hear people (including myself) say, “I’m busy” I cringe. What makes me so important that I am THIS busy? Or, what am I hiding from–or running from–because I am this busy.
On Thursday, March 15th suddenly my world was flipped upside down. A panicky message from my mother-in-law said, “We think Stan (my father-in-law) has had a stroke. He’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.” When my husband and I arrived at the hospital, his family waiting inside, we found Stan unconscious, having suffered a massive brain bleed. The neurosurgeon was called, the Chaplain brought down to the ER. Time stood still. I couldn’t feel my legs, let alone remember what was on the calendar for tomorrow. Upon hearing that I was a priest, the Chaplain left us (Not feeling superhuman, I found this incredibly unhelpful).
For the next 2 and a half days we alternated between the ICU, ICU waiting area and home for short, restless sleep. Many friends gathered and kept the vigil with us. Thankful for technology, we could text, call and e-mail family members, friends and parishioners for prayers and support. But everything on our schedule melted away. We were no longer busy, rather living hour to hour. There were tears, laughter and stories–alongside grief and exhaustion. One day at a time turned into one hour at a time. On St. Patrick’s day Stan died at 3:38pm, while many of us gathered around the window waiting for a rainbow to appear after the sudden spring shower. Because we so ached for a sign; to feel Stan and God’s presence. And because there is usually gold at the end of a rainbow.
Nearly a week has passed and I have not used the word busy. It just doesn’t seem fitting. I want to replace the word busy with “full.” Instead of seeking to fill my life with things and people to busy myself and feel useful and needed, I hope that I can see my life for the fullness that it is. Instead of the distant hope of what will come, I seek to feel gratitude for each moment I have here. This isn’t easy, but this past week and a half has taught me that I have control over very little in my own life…and hardly any control over the life of others. Yet, I believe God does. I believe that God isn’t too busy to care for us and to ask us to care for each other. To feel full is to feel alive. I am thankful for this gift today.
Emily, Louisville, KY