Courage and death

As I look ahead to October, I remember when I was a little girl – in maybe third grade. I started to be afraid of dying. It hit me one night, late, late in the dark of night (maybe 10, maybe even 11 o’clock!). I couldn’t sleep, and for some reason my mind started turning on mortality. I was raised in an extended family – my grandparents lived with us – and so I was clear on what aging and increasing frailty looked like; maybe that was a contributing factor. Regardless, it suddenly hit me, a fact I’d already known but this time it was different; it hit me in my bones and my stomach – I was going to die. One day, or night, would come when my existence, my me-ness would be snuffed out – and everything I knew, felt, sensed, all I had and all I was, would end. (This is, of course, according to my own theology, and we all know there are many takes on what happens when we die – this was simply my own.)

I was terrified. I ran downstairs in my pajamas and found my father loading the dishwasher in the kitchen. I couldn’t believe it – as if nothing was wrong, as if tragedy wasn’t right there in the room with him, with us, close as a shadow. “Daddy, Daddy!” I cried out. “How can you load the dishwasher when you’re going to die!”

My father handled it really well, especially considering he had no warning at all. He stopped what he was doing and focused all his attention on me. I don’t remember the whole conversation that followed but I remember how he began. “Well.” he said, and paused. “I’m not going to die for a very, very long time. And in the meantime, the dishwasher needs to be loaded.”

That’s what I think of when I look forward to the coming month, when our Ministry Themes will be Courage and Death. As I wrote in the October 8 worship paragraph, these aren’t the themes I would have chosen for the same month as our installation and the celebration of our new, shared ministry together. (We get these themes and their order as part of a collaborative of UU congregations sharing the themes and resources for them, together.) But death is always with us, courage is always required, and there’s no point in ducking the one, or overlooking the other. So we’ll be exploring them, and their relationship, during October, as well as celebrating this fresh beginning we have now. They’re deep topics, full of juice and anxiety, often linked and very different: death being something we know we will encounter and often dread, courage being something we hope we possess and often anticipate.

I look forward to this month of exploration and celebration with you, to considering deep experiences and questions together, and to sharing the inspiration and joy of the installation together. Some great UUs are coming from near and far to participate and commemorate the installation with us – I think it will be a great day, and a great month. What a joy it is to finally be here with you – and how much there is to look forward to as we learn and grow together. It fills me up – and I hope you, too.

See you in church,

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay, Minister
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday