So, here’s the other thing that happened at church on Sunday: We are still a church that does Joys and Sorrows–out loud.We are a smallish church, membership of about 100; general attendance is about 75 to 80. So, I’m leading the service and leading the Joys or Sorrow–prefacing it by asking people to state their names and briefly share their personal joy or sorrow. First woman up decides to share that her husband’s cousin recently passed. You know, had she stopped there, I don’t know that I’d say anything.
But she didn’t. She talked about what a valiant fight her husband’s cousin had put up and that she had died with her mother and siblings around her. Even if she had stopped there, I think I would have been fine.
But she didn’t. Then she said that her husband’s cousin died of Lupus. Lupus. The disease that both me and my eldest daughter have recently been diagnosed with. The disease that I consider a nuisance and not life-threatening. I suppose had she stopped there, it would have been a little weird and my daughter and I would have looked it each other for about .3 seconds (as we did) and check in with each other later (as we did) and that would have been the end of it until we could talk later.
But she didn’t. This woman then began to praise her husband’s cousin for the valiant fight and how she had held a good attitude when several of her fingers were amputated and then again when she lost a leg… and then I absolutely stopped listening. I looked at my daughter, saw the tears brimming, then closed my own eyes and my ears against it. And I thought of the other young woman in the congregation who recently shared during another Joy and Sorrows moment that she had been diagnosed with Lupus in the last month. I didn’t look at her.
I held the microphone as others shared their joys and sorrows and went on with the service. We came home; I took a nap; then my daughter and I went out to run errands and we talked through this experience and what she was going through these days. The ironic thing: she had just, on Friday, checked a book out from the library about Lupus and decided that she was going to start take it on rather than ignore it. We talked about the betrayal by our bodies and we talked about how this requires us to be more certain about other things: like how to make choices and how to understand when we need to ask for help. Talked about spiritual and physical disciplines we could be practicing. It was a good talk.
Then, on Monday, I saw her in passing as she headed to a Faith in Action meeting at church with her father–and I shared with her my other secret tactic for surviving. I told her that what was really going through my mind as this poor woman (and seriously, I do feel empathy for the woman who died and those who were affected by her death) was being eulogized unceremoniously. Don’t judge, but here’s what played through my head:
My daughter and I shared a good laugh; her father judged. And we put a new tool in our coping arsenal. Lupus Ladies, unite!