January 24, 2023

From the Rector…

I was visiting a parishioner in the hospital this past week and we got to taking about the state of the church, our church. We reminisced over my past four years here and I realized that the first year I was here, I was sick—so sick in fact that though I know things that happened, I can’t remember them. For instance, I know we did an installation of our ministry together soon after being called to CoA, but I have no memory whatsoever of it. I know we did things like Chili Cook-Off and Lobsterfest, Christmas Eve and Easter, but I cannot remember any of those experiences. I know I sprained my ankle multiple times and finally broke it—but I couldn’t tell you how; other than they all happened when I was exercising (that’ll teach me!). I do remember having to go to Memphis when my father almost died of a heart attack and then to Tuscaloosa a few months later when his heart quit on him. But I cannot remember his time in UAB when he had surgery for bladder cancer. It’s odd what I can remember and what I can’t.

In part, it makes me quite sad that there are so many holes in my memory of our first year together. It is also somewhat disturbing to have such gaps in one’s memory.

Even though I have had this experience and am more sensitive to the consequences of memory loss, I cannot truly understand what it means to have dementia. I know that in 2019, the year I was so sick, I didn’t realize that I had memory problems. I brushed it off, lived in denial, told myself I had too much going on to worry about the details. Steve would tell me that I wasn’t remembering, and I wouldn’t really pay attention to him—allowing my excuses to overwhelm my need to seek answers. I don’t like going to the doctor, so I struggled through until something had to be done.

The first time they went to take blood, I blacked out. it wasn’t surprising as my red blood cell count was so low that the doctor asked me how I was holding myself upright and walking around. She sent me straight to the cancer center for iron infusions. I do remember the first one, though the others kind of blur together in my memory, if I have any memory of them at all. I think I remember the first one because it was so traumatic. I had to have more blood drawn and warned the lab tech of my black out the last time I had blood drawn. She took me into a room and had my lie on a recliner. As she started taking the blood I noticed her face shift from its cheerfulness to concern and then worry. Before she was done she kept asking me how I was doing and making me talk to her and then called another tech, telling her not to leave the room and to sit with me. I offered a weak smile and tried to make a joke about having been drained of all my blood but neither of them laughed. Instead they went and got me a Coke and some crackers and then put me in a wheel chair to go to the room where I would get my infusion. 

I remember having brought some work to do while getting an infusion—birthday cards to write and sermon prep. They started a clear IV to hydrate me before starting the iron. The iron infusion was dark red like Alabama red clay mud and when they started that IV, I lost it. I started bawling, crying my eyes out for no good reason. It was so embarrassing. Here I was sitting in the midst of a bunch of cancer patients all receiving chemotherapy as they battled for their lives, and I was the one crying. The people in my pod all started to offer me sympathy, telling me it would be ok and I would feel so much better after the treatment and all I could think about was how sick they were and yet, I was the one who was losing it. Their kindness made me cry even more.

Just when I had started to recover, Steve made a surprise visit. And that made me tear up all over again. He said he just felt like he needed to come see me. His presence and the concern of the other patients was a comfort to me as well as humbling to my spirit. It reminded me that we truly are beloved children first and foremost and when we are at our best our concern for one another as children of God is the true way in which we build up the kingdom.

The world is so good at tearing us down and pitting us against one another. When we stand together and find ways of love that hold up, encourage, support, and build one another up—that is true kingdom work. That is our true call as Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ. That is the work we get to do together.

My first year at CoA, I was sick. The next two years the whole rest of the world was sick. Now that we are all on the mend, it is time for renewal and regeneration. The time for planting a harvest of love and making joyful memories that will last beyond a lifetime.

Light and Life,