Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grief and the Trunk of My Car

Yesterday was my last day in the office at the big church where I am the intern. My smaller church doesn't have a building at all, so all of my office time has been spent at Big Church (BC). BC is a fairly large congregation, replete with two pastors, an administrative assistant, director for Christian education, parish nurse, and me (for a couple more days, technically).

One of the great thing about BC's "staff church" status is that the staff is excellent. Sure, there are tensions between a couple of people, but nothing insurmountable. We all have gotten along quite well during my ten months of internship.

All of the staff have been great to me during my time in North Dakota. In particular, the administrative assistant, whom we shall call "Smiley," has been a wonderful addition to my life. Not only is she a model of efficiency and pleasantness, she is also very, VERY fun, and to top it off, she reminds me of Sis.

Anyway, yesterday was my last office day, like I said. I was reflecting on how I'd been at Restaurant for 10 years and how I'd been at BC for ten months, and how much more sad I was at the thought of leaving BC.

I waited until everyone else left before I went to get the box I had put in my car (Arnold). Even though they knew yesterday was the last day I'd be working with them in the office, I didn't want to upset them with that reminder. So, Smiley gave me a hug and then they all left.

Which brings me to the gist of this post. I went out and got the empty box to put the bulk of my "office stuff" into. I went to my office and loaded my books and pictures and some things into my bags, and then put most of the stuff in the box. Then, I started carrying my things out to my car. I opened the trunk and realized that the only times I ever open the trunk of my car are times fraught with grief.

When Mom was dying, and J and I decided to drive all night, the trunk was opened to put in our suitcases. The day of her funeral, we opened my trunk to put plants and other funeral home things in there. When we needed to head back to North Dakota, I had to put the last box of my stuff from my childhood home into the trunk, full well knowing that I would probably never get to see the inside of that home ever again because someone wanted to buy it. Even though the death of one of the most influential people in my life is different from leaving a well-loved "job," it is still a grieving process.

So, yesterday, as I was cleaning out my office and taking my things to the car, I realized that the trunk of the car is a place, for me at least, where grief's shadows linger. The trunk lid is opened, and in are poured boxes and contents of my life during times of grief and processing, as well as some of my tears and angst.

I knew full well that my internship was a "fixed time-frame" job. That's what it is to be on an internship. I knew that Mom's time was drawing to a close. That's a part of what it is to be a human being with a terminal illness. And yet, these obvious truths did not stop and do not stop the grief. Which leads me to yet another point: Grief is not a bad thing.

Grief is a healthy thing. Certainly, the loss of loved ones, the realization that we don't get to see people who make us laugh and feel loved on a regular basis, and the growing older and losing the things of childhood cause all sorts of different emotions within us. They hurt, often to the point we think it is unbearable. These things cause tears-even for those of us who don't often cry. All this grief and change help us to see that life is not some perfect utopia, but is instead a place where good and bad things happen everyday. But it's healthy. Grieving is healthy, even if at the same time uncomfortable. Grieving reminds us that we have loved and been loved; reminds us that we have made memories that are irreplaceable; reminds us that we are indeed alive.

And this makes me want to go and open the trunk of my car.

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