Death on the Factory Floor
“See, the home of God is among mortals…” – Revelation 21:3
When your coworker dies on the job, you can’t avoid it.
You can’t drive a different route to avoid the intersection where the car crash happened. You can’t decide you’re not ready to visit the cemetery yet. When your coworker dies on the job, you can’t avoid the place. It’s your job, after all.
As a pastor, this is my job. To say a blessing at painful places, in painful times.
At 5:30 a.m., on a factory floor in Iowa, days after a tragic accident, factory workers gathered around the empty boots, the workshirt, and the roll of duct tape that did not, in fact, “fix everything.” They wanted a blessing before the machines got turned back on, and this is what I gave them.
“Raise your hands toward the toolkit, the uniform, the boots and bless this place of work. Raise your hands higher to bless each other, your union, your factory, your friends. Reach your hands forward to bless the family here today. Stretch your hands wide to reach all who are not here. Now stretch your arms wider. Raise your hands higher to bless the whole world in love and light.”
We were not naive. As the hot machines got turned on, we knew the pain remained.
I stayed and prayed from the cold step of a metal staircase, as the place came back to work, mechanical marvels, their rhythms set by the skilled human hands that moved among them, pouring and steering the buckets of lava that generated the moaning of massive machines that sounded like elephants. I imagined big grey ears tilted back to hear the softer groan of the smaller machines in reply.
By now, the foundry lights fully illuminated the worn blue workshirt that had been hung carefully on the spot that we had blessed.
When the pain remains, let the blessing remain too. Amen.
Lillian Daniel’s new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.