I have talked briefly about my Circle of Support here before. I hand-chose six people from various parts of my life to help guide me in decision-making around end-of-life matters. This includes issues about tangible support from friends, health concerns, and funeral planning. It also includes calling me on my stuff–those things that prevent me from living in freedom right now–such as setting better boundaries, letting go of control, and clarifying my values. They are precious to me.
You would think such a group might feel sad and depressed with this task but that is not often the case. Last night as we assessed the session, someone remarked about the amount of laughter in the room despite the reason for gathering. He was correct–there was a jovial mood in the room for a group of people who were coming together to help me die well. I was the last to report in and jokingly said that I knew I was respected even though they were laughing at me. Some hurried to assure me it was with me but we all guffawed at the truth that they do indeed laugh at me sometimes. I can take it though and am often the first to notice my compulsions.
Many aspects of the group make me gobsmacked. The Circle is really more than I had imagined. Perhaps it is that we break bread of some kind together–it helps to have someone who owns a bakery in the group. Maybe it is that I have such amazing people in my life and it delights me to see friendships forming. The love that is poured out my way is pure gift. The collective wisdom is powerful at times. As in today’s First Reading of 1 Samuel 3, I know that each of these people have responded to the Lord’s strange call with a hearty Here I am! and none of us would know the outcome of where this process would lead. The other words that Samuel says are Speak, for your servant is listening. The gift of compassionate listening is precious. I always believe I am heard which encourages me to be vulnerable. The questions that are directed to me are helpful in both discernment and action-taking.
Last night opened and closed with a fabulous feast. Certainly the Epiphany cake was a symbol of how Christ was manifested to us. As the little ceramic angel was discovered within one of our pieces, an earthly king for the evening was crowned. The New-born King has arrived and the crown of thorns Jesus will wear at the end of his life is not how folks from that time expected the adventure to end. Life and death are so intricately linked. Some days this illness that is overtaking my body is surreal to all of us. If someone were to walk into the circle it might be hard to guess who among us has cancer. The laughter and countenance of our faces are not cast down. This could be any group of dear friends meeting in some ways.
In today’s Gospel, Peter’s mother-in-law is sick and the community makes Jesus aware of this. He heals her and she gets up to serve. I think that this small community offers up many prayers on my behalf as they see what I struggle with and what I need. I am grateful for this because somehow I continue to find the strength to serve in smaller ways than before such as writing this blog. When I formed the circle, my desire was to wrap community around me. That is what I see in the Gospel today. When we are sick, we need one another.
No matter how absurd the adventure becomes or how surreal it remains, laughter is always a good outcome. I can only be grateful for the many blessings that have come out of this circle of friends. May each of them know God’s blessings as well.
How do you make major decisions in your life?
Can laughter and sorrow co-exist?
Laughing-God, God of Joy, God of Good-Natured Fun, you are with us even in the darkness and Mystery that scare us. Help me to search you out during these times. Teach me to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Show me how to laugh at myself when I get too serious about my situation. I trust in you. Amen.