I write this column on a plane en route to Lebanon and Syria for a long-planned visit with our historic mission partners and to see the work we support with Iraqi refugees in those two countries. A week ago I was driving across country with my husband, following a moving van as we relocate our home base from Arizona to our hometown in Florida to be closer to our 90 year old parents.
For the past five years I have worked in Cleveland, living in a small apartment next door to the UCC offices and my husband has worked in southern California. As much as I have loved this job and will miss it, we are eager to get beyond this "commuter marriage" phase of our lives when he retires early in 2011 and I do the same six months later!
As we drove through the Texas hill country last week, my cell phone rang and the message was clear: "Catch the closest plane; your father may not make it for 24 more hours." My husband kept driving while I flew "home". Immediate calls to our two daughters quickly brought both of them, one son-in-law, and our brand new first grandchild who is named for my father Lee to Dad's bedside.
Lo and behold, he made a miraculous turn-around (fastest she's ever seen, said the Hospice nurse) to enjoy five days of relative ability to communicate with his family and even to hold that precious baby, born seven weeks prematurely this spring and now doing beautifully. Yesterday after most of us had left, Dad again began to be less and less talkative and to seem much weaker but he encouraged me to continue with plans for this trip which would have really fascinated him not very long ago.
I remember my mother's too-early death, twenty-one years ago on Maundy Thursday, from metastasized retinal melanoma. I felt so privileged to sit beside her in the hospital for those final hours and to feel her "presence" in the room for some time after her body had died.
The Easter "Alleluia" resurrection hymns had never before felt so personal and so moving as they did that year (and still do.) My father's faith is not as traditionally Christian as mine or my mother's. In recent years he has questioned whether he will "go to heaven," eventually attributing that fear to the fact that he had cursed God when my mother died. No matter how often I have shared with him the psalms in which the psalmist speaks angrily to God, Dad seems not to be sure that God's love is big enough to forgive him. He always says, "Well of course you are supposed to believe that, you're a minister."
My prayer at this time is two-fold: that he will soon receive the healing that God knows he most needs (whatever that is for him) and that he will come to know in his very being that he is now and will be forevermore held in God's eternal love, just as you and I and all people are!
God is good. All the time.
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte is the UCC's executive minister for Wider Church Ministries and co-executive minister for Global Ministries. She is also a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.