31 August 2010

On the phone

Three times I have been the voice on the other end of the line with nothing to say.  Twice it was on purpose.

The first time I was just in the church office working on the utterly un-Spiritual task of  data entry.  The phone rang.  I was the only person there.  The woman on the other end needed a priest.  We had no priest.  Our priest had left and our Interim hadn't started yet and I was the financial secretary.  It was Friday afternoon.  I didn't know who was on call.  I would find out.  Someone would call her by Monday.  Would that be okay?

"I guess."  Said the woman on the phone.  She was breaking.

"Are you okay right now?"  And the answer poured out.  Her twins were born catastrophically early and were hooked up to every machine imaginable and she just didn't know how it was that life kept moving.

"How do you go on?"

And so I told her about my lost boy, and about breathing.  "You just get up every morning, and take a shower and get dressed.  And you breathe in and out."  Because that's all there is.  You go on because there is no alternative.

"I just don't understand why this happened."

There is no why.  It just is.  And it sucks.  And if you go looking for a "why" then all you'll get is a bunch of people with crap answers that do not help.  I didn't say that last bit, but I bet she learned it all on her own.

I didn't really say much of anything.  I was a real live human being on the other end of the phone.  I had once seen the face of death on my own child and that meant something to her beyond any words I might say.

Twice more I have had the honor being that person on the other end of the phone.  Every time I have felt inadequate.   These are people with problems I cannot solve.  My only gift to them is to guide them through the process of releasing whatever anger and sadness they have been saving.  It isn't much, because when a child dies the anger and sadness come in floods and even when you've wrung yourself dry there is more to come. 

I was on the phone today, and I had nothing to offer but breath and prayer.

Breathe in and out.

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