12.18.19 Intersection of Grief and Joy

Everything seemed to conspire against my getting to the corner today to wave.

At some point, I was able to shrug and admit that some days spiritual practices have to give up ground to other urgencies.

In a sea of meetings, I received a call that put me in touch with a former congregant who is actively dying with renal failure. I spent holy moments on the phone as she heard and recognized my voice. She could barely form her words but shared, “Thank you.” She was thanking me for the many visits that we have shared together. As she listened in, I also shared my thank you. It was simply put then, and the specifics come flooding now:

Thank you for the way you welcomed a new pastor in. Thank you for the way you made me four course lunches, always ending on a brownie. Thank you for allowing me to accompany you on the long road of grief. Thank you for the way you welcomed my daughter royally to your 90th birthday. Thank you for the holy moments of prayer that came at the close of each of our visits. Thank you for the last pauses today before you transition. 

I am aware every time I open myself up to the joy of corner waving, that I come to joy not because it is the opposite of suffering and not because I am in some denial of evil or hatred. As a chaplain and pastor, I have found that my presence with suffering has deepened my ability also to experience joy.

I am aware that so many who pass are in some place of pain that I do not wish to gloss over– just as many who come to any given worship service are hurting in ways we often do not know. Perhaps, there is something in the presence of being there on the corner, even if the waving is a turnoff and is to be ignored by those immersed in the griefs of life…there is something in the standing that communicates the mere existence of joy–even at the hardest intersections and in the fraught times of our wider world.

I traversed a hard intersection today with a dear friend soon departed. My next time on the corner she will be deeply on heart as she no longer walks the earth. May her spirit accompany me on the next legs of this journey. And may many meals end in brownies.



  The balloon I had prepared didn’t make it out, but I caught this quick shot of the corner as the sun went down on this day.

Published by Rev. Claire Matheny

Pastor | Kittamaqundi Community Church | Columbia, Maryland

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