There are always parts of ministry that are just plain ol' hard. For me, preaching, teaching, and liturgy are where I live and move and find my being. God gave me gifts and I hope, by God's grace, I'm using them to God's glory and the benefit of God's creation.
But sometimes it's just plain hard. Yesterday, I officiated at my first "solo" memorial service. One of my husband's former co-workers lost his wife to breast cancer last week. Bob and Cheryl were one of the first couples I met when I moved to Maryland 19 years ago. In the days BC (before children), the four of us would get together pretty regularly. Informal "get togethers" just seemed to happen with them. We'd get there ... then some neighbors would stop by ... then some food and wine came out ... and next thing ya know we'd have a party going on. Cheryl loved life and lived it fully.
Our lives together grew apart over time. Bob retired from the company where he and Beloved Husband worked together. We moved a bit farther away and had children which consumed our free time. We stayed in touch at Christmas with cards and newsletters.
Three weeks ago, after having some breathing difficulty, Cheryl was diagnosed with stage 4 metasticized breast cancer which had invaded her lungs. She went to the hospital immediately and spent the last 17 days of her life on a ventilator. She was upbeat and positive right up to the end. She went to sleep on Tuesday night in the ICU and did not wake up. She was 58 years old.
As a gift to an old friend, I officiated at her memorial service. I've done funerals before, but this was personal ... and very hard. Only by grace and the prayers of many who knew where I was in that moment did I not break down and lose it. My heart was racing ... I think God cranked the adrenaline to keep me going. Afterwards, to help Bob with logistics, I took possession of Cheryl's cremains, the legal documents, the guest book and the cards. I'll take them to Bob tomorrow. But just for today, Cheryl is with me at our house.