Two years ago when I wrote my book, "Grief and the Psalms" I wrote this chapter right before I had my right knee replaced. Tonight as I prepare for my left knee replacement, I am reminded of how grateful I am to have this body - and this life. The musical Hamilton has a song, "turn around, how lucky we are to be alive right now..." and it's true. So tonight, I say good-bye and give thanks for Linda and this village; for all the doctors and nurses who have brought me to this place - and look forward to many long walks ahead. Thank you, God. (editor's note: where it says "right" think "left" -- `take 2.')
Psalm 130: 5-6 I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than my soul watches for the morning:
I say, more than they that watch for the morning. (KJV)
For 57 years my right knee and I have been inseparable. As my total knee replacement looms close on the horizon, I find myself growing very sentimental about this old joint of mine. This knee has shared all of my journeys: taking my first steps, learning to ride a bike, and kicking me through the water as I learned to swim, playing every sport that had a ball. This right knee propelled me walking across the stage to graduate from high school, college, seminary, and kneeling to be ordained. This knee stepped out when my partner, Linda and I walked one another down the aisle. This knee rocked our old rocker in those early mornings when I was trying to get each of our baby boys back to sleep. This knee has been on walks with most everyone I’ve loved, has brought me a hundred times or more on Saturday mornings to Evans restaurant and to Booth 25, and has made her way on long walks listening to baseball games on the radio, or seeking solitude and listening for God.
Total knee replacement in a few weeks. “Before the morning watch I pray…” Change is surely coming, and as one who looks and hopes for the dawn of something better, I am especially mindful these days. This is what I’ve known for so long. Even with pain, I’ve come to trust this knowing to be enough. What if things don’t get better? What if the pain is the same? Or worse?
There is a restlessness in me as I watch for the morning. There’s a mixture of exhaustion and anticipation. In many ways I’ve limped these final steps and don’t know if I’m able to push through much more. The fear of not knowing is somehow gradually becoming less the focus for me.
Instead, as I wait and watch, I am almost beginning to envision what could be next. In this time of watching for the light that is surely coming, I can almost begin to imagine some of what my next steps may bring. And for this night of waiting, for this night I give thanks for this old companion. Thank you for literally bringing me here from there. Thank you for carrying me all this way. Thank you for continuing on, even through the last hobbling days.
Change is coming and I hope that the pain ceases and healing comes quickly. For all that has been, and for what is next I am leaning into God’s grace and lovingkindness.
Recreating God, I give you thanks for all in my life that supported me in the past—but no longer serves me. I need to let go of some parts of me, aspects of me, old strategies I used. I am still grateful for them, and ask for courage and your loving presence as I release them now to make room for what is surely coming next. Transform me and be with me as I learn to lean on new supports as I journey on with you. Amen.
Rest in peace, sweet sister.
I learned this morning that my friend, Jackie has died. She lived a remarkable life and touched so many of us along the way. She and I met what feels like a hundred years ago in one of Paul Plate's `Grief and Healing' retreats. She was a sweet soul who carried wisdom and strength, gentleness and courage with every step. She has been a treasured companion, and it's up to us to carry on. It's so hard to imagine this world without her. My heart is heavy this morning, and it is so very full of love and thankfulness. Sending love and prayers for her family and so many friends.
(This is from a blog I wrote a while ago about meeting up with Jackie. I hope that she will save a place for me and maybe a little peach cobbler)
Time and again, I’m reminded of the preciousness of people, places and times. It’s funny because in the business of health care, “people, place and time” are indicators of whether or not someone is “oriented.” And you know – that’s more true than we know.
For me “being oriented” speaks to what matters most to me. People. Places. Times.
Not all that long ago, my friend, Jackie and I used to meet most Wednesdays late in the afternoon. We would meet at Evans Fine Foods. Each time my friend Jackie and I would set a date to meet for cobbler, my heart was oh, so happy. Well, just to be clear I ordered cobbler, and Jackie seemed to have a taste for the Brownie Delight. It’s all good.
Jackie and I have known one another for 20 years or more. We met as fellow sisters in the fight against HIV. Back in the day before protease inhibitors our paths crossed. We met in those dark days when so many of the folks we cared for were dying. In those days people mattered, places mattered, time truly mattered. At her retirement party not long ago, I said “let’s meet at Evans sometime,” and started doing just that.
There was such a comfort for my soul when she and I set a date with one another. It was as though our souls put flags on a hill up ahead, and in doing that, we held a place for one another. In the hustle and bustle of our days, I was so very grateful for this time we would set and spend together. Some may say it was for the iced tea and cobbler, and don’t get me wrong that was part of the truth. But the greater part of the truth was the joy I felt when I saw my friend’s face across the table. We would catch one another up on stories, of what had happened since the last time we’d talked. Little-everyday-things like hearing about Jackie’s invitation to the White House to honor her HIV work – that was a pretty great story. But you know what always topped her list was talking about her grandkids. Stories to tell – with laughter and tender, wet eyes. Jackie and I didn’t bring an agenda. We set a date, and saved a place for one another. That simple, and that precious. It was a time to let go and catch up. It was a time for listening with our hearts.
Everyone needs a place where they can save a place for a friend. Evans Fine Foods had for years been that spot for me. It was one of those rare places where hearts were given time to catch up with one another. My family and friends have been sharing a table there for years. Most Wednesdays our waitperson, Pam served our spirits as well cobbler. There was something just fine when someone smiled my way when I walked into the restaurant. There was something just fine when I sat down at a table and before I knew it, an un-sweet iced tea and a smile or hug would appear – without my needing to ask. There was something so fine in this crazy, hustling-bustling days when someone looked at me with smiling eyes and asked, “how about the usual today”?
Using the past tense as I describe Evans continues to break my heart. The restaurant closed back in Novembert. Many of us regulars are much like wandering pilgrims trying to make sense of the world. We seem to have lost our compass. If you know of a place that has the feeling “come on in, and rest your weary, sweet self,” please let me know.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.