Thursday, February 16, 2012

Transfiguration Yearnings

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time thinking about transfiguration.  I was working on a blog piece for the Living Lutheran site; it will appear on Monday.  I was also writing my blog piece for yesterday's meditation on Sunday's Gospel.  In between, I spent time with my friend.  We worked on transforming scraps of cloth into quilts, while we talked about how we'd like our lives to change.

I was also thinking about Ash Wednesday as I thought about possible projects that would fuse photography and poetry (for more on that project, see this post on my creativity blog).

Today, I'm thinking of Ash Wednesday and Transfiguration Sunday from a different angle.  Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of my friend's mother  (a different friend than the one in the first paragraph). 

During the last year of her mother's life, I tried to help by being an occasional driver. I remember driving down to the Catholic hospital in Miami. I don't think I realized that it was a Catholic hospital until about the 5th time I saw a crucifix on the wall. Not being a Catholic myself, I thought, how gruesome, can't they choose something more cheerful for decorations. And then, it hit me; I thought, "Wait, I bet this is a Catholic hospital!"  Funny how that revelation transformed my whole thinking as I started seeing the crucifix as a comforting reminder that God has promised that death will not be our final answer.

I remember my friend's mom trying to be brave that day, trying to converse with people, trying to act like everything was normal, as if we were there for tea. I have a vague memory of her talking about how proud she was of her daughter (my friend), and an even vaguer memory (which may not have happened) of her trying to charm a doctor on her daughter's behalf, as if she was a matchmaker. I remember that my friend was trying to get information about how much longer she might last in her declined state, even as she was trying to act like we were all there for a social event.

I remember marveling at how my friend's mother was trying to be charming, even as the cancer was surely eating away her brain.

I remember thinking about how the roles had changed, the daughter becoming caretaker.  My heart broke into bitty pieces for my friend, who had to learn how to be a caretaker, how to navigate the medical-industrial complex--all sorts of new languages for her to learn.

Life will transfigure us in all sorts of way, especially as we face disease and old age.  I understand Peter's response to the Transfiguration on the mountain top, that wanting to build a shelter and stay put and pretend that we can escape the ravages of living.
We can't escape of course.  Not even God, who became human and lived with us, could escape.  But fortunately, these experiences can become transfigured into a glowing experience of the love of the Divine.

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