She started trying to get up for the day at 3:30am.  It was all I could do to convince her to lie down and stay in bed.  Every time she needed help of any sort after that, she tried to get up and head to the table for breakfast and pills.  Finally, some time before 7am she/we got up.  The usual happened.  By the time the Bath Aide left, she was dozing in her chair.  I got her to the bed and she slept about three hours. 

Yesterday morning (Sunday) there was a Volunteer with Mary Ann, so that I could have some respite time.  I went to the lake to check out the Eagles again.  There were only a few, and the river was frozen offering them nothing on which to prey.  It was still a spectacularly beautiful day with the snow cover and the bright sunlight. 

When I got home, someone had dropped off the new Pictorial Directory for the congregation from which I retired.  We are still members.  We worship in the Sunday Evening Service, since it is the most easily accessible for Mary Ann due to the lack of a crowd and the time of day.  That service also provides a lower profile for my presence as the former Pastor of the Congregation.  Having followed two long pastorates, I know what a welcome gift it is to a new Pastor to be given the opportunity to settle in without the former Pastor around vying for attention.  I was given that gift by the two pastors I followed earlier in my career. 

I looked through the new Pictorial Directory.  It seems to be well done.  There were folks pictured who have been members for  years and some who were new to me.  There were some who just come for the pictures, but no longer attend church.  There were many whom I have not seen in the year and a half since I retired because they attend the morning services.  I miss them.  Members become extended family to the Pastor, especially since so often the ministry involvement comes at times in their lives when there is a certain level of vulnerability.   

The front section of the Directory was filled with pictures of the Staff, both paid and volunteer.  There were classes and worship events and gatherings of all sorts pictured — group after group.  What was exactly as it should be was that, of course, I was not in any of them.  That fact is evidence that what I sought has happened.  The Congregation is going on without me.  It is being led by a very capable Pastor, who is doing effective ministry.  All is as it should be.

If that is so, why did my insides hurt so much yesterday afternoon?  The answer at one level is obvious.  I was just doing some more grieving.  The visual impact of the new Directory was the verification that I am no longer a factor in the life of the Congregation.  What I sought when I left has happened.  It is a good thing.  The necessary letting go is just hard to do. 

There is another level  of grief that was deeper.   Looking at the pages left me with the sensation that it was as if I had never been there.   Understand, the folks with whom I interact from the parish are always gracious.  My feelings are no different from those of anyone who has left a career to move on to something else.  Yesterday afternoon I thought about the Pastor I followed in this parish after almost thirty years of ministry.   I wonder if or how often John had those feelings of grief. 

What happens when most Pastors retire is that they continue to serve in their profession, just in other venues.  Circumstances have not allowed me to continue in my profession in any way.   As a result, Sunday afternoon was just another time of grieving the loss of a life long career, one that served to define my identity.  This is the sort of grief work that can only be done by the person who has experienced the loss. 

I guess I was surprised at the intensity of the feelings that were triggered on Sunday.  It helped to attend church later that evening and hear the Vision of the new Pastor and the Leadership for the future direction of the congregation.  I resonated with the assessment of the current need and the commitment to tools that can help meet that need.  The grief work I continue to do does not include any perception of losses in the health and quality of ministry at the congregation I no longer serve.   It is just doing the work of accepting that I no longer serve there.  

I now serve here at my house.  The need here is clear. 

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