The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
At the end of last December, I brought my 95-year-old sister from New Jersey to live with me. It had simply become too tough for her to live on her own during this extended pandemic time. This was not a planned move, but I am so grateful to have shared the last months of Jean’s life with her, until her death in our home on Labor Day.
Those who are in the last chapter of their lives have much to teach us about waiting, patience and hope, three themes of the Advent Season. Assuming a role as a caregiver meant that I had to rethink lots of things in my own life this past year. I had to adjust the pace of my work life. I had to rely on colleagues and neighbors, friends and extended family for lots of help I had never needed before. I had to face my own vulnerability and tenderhearted feelings as my oldest sister, nearly three decades older than me, became increasingly dependent on me.
Mostly, we had a great time together. Baking experiments. Card games. Weekly Zoom calls with family. New York Times puzzles and watching Jeopardy on weekday afternoons. Jean shared stories of her growing up years and decades working as a social worker. To the end, we often shared devotions and sang hymns, as well as the show tunes, she so loved.
There were times when I really didn’t know what I was doing or how I could keep going. Near the end of her life, one night we sat together on the edge of her bed. The day had been long and frustrating. I cried. She put her arm around me and said, “It will all be fine.” Together we said our prayers.
Not all of you have played such a caregiving role for others and not every family is able to keep their eldest relatives at home. We are all indebted to the health-care workers, who serve in institutions, senior facilities, and hospitals, alongside the spouses, adult children, and siblings, caring for others in the holy time at the end of a person’s life. God knows the difference they make.
As Advent gives way to the joy of Christmas, God also knows the yearning, the weariness, the worries that thread across our common life. Just like other years, none of us will be fully prepared when Christmas Eve comes. And yet, by God’s mercy and grace, the angels will still sing out their songs of praise, announcing that God has come to us in one so tiny and fragile, Jesus our Savior and our Hope.
May God open our hearts to receive this gift of God-with-us, Emmanuel.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Patricia Lull