Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the Thick of Things

Last Monday, as I drove to the hospital to turn in my pager and badge now that my very last on-call evening and holiday shifts were complete, I received a phone call from a parishioner. Her husband, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 10 years ago, was dying. In the parking lot of a brewery, waiting to go in for our December Nashville Girls’ Pint Out meeting, I ran over things with the senior warden, trying to figure out if there was anything I could do. Then leaving, a friend shared the exciting news of an impending engagement. The parishioner’s husband died late that night.

Tuesday was our Fresh Start meeting of clergy in new calls and a site of fruitful and helpful conversation and fellowship. Wednesday was a flurry of funeral planning and church work before our budget review at the vestry meeting. The good news: highest pledges that the church has seen in years. Thursday was breakfast with my Divinity School girlfriends and a diocesan clergywomen lunch.

And then Friday. I was thankful that the funeral had kept me from writing my Sunday sermon because it would’ve had to be torn up and thrown away to account for the tragic deaths of 26 people, 20 of them schoolchildren. I cried, not only for those children, but for all the children and their families I carry with me from my time as a chaplain resident. I cried for the patients my husband is taking care in the trauma ICU this month and our sad, broken world. It felt wrong to get dressed up to head out to two holiday parties, but it was also good to be around laughter and joy.

Saturday, I officiated my very first funeral and was deeply humbled by the experience and deeply thankful for the Book of Common Prayer. To celebrate resurrection in the face of death, to have more hope than the world thinks is reasonable, is a challenge, particularly in Advent, particularly staring at the large bulk of the casket covered with the shiny white pall. And then that hope was made manifest in Italian food and wine with wonderful former classmates of mine - talk of dreams and red lipstick and grieving and celebration.

That night I dreamed of good and evil, action for life coupled with action for death, all entwined together. I dreamed of wholeness and completion, my ministry standing in the middle of celebration and mourning, holding the two in tension, like we do in the burial liturgy. Life is complicated. Life is both/and. Life is gray and magenta and green, not just black and white. We are saints and sinners, gloriously and utterly human.

The liturgy on the second Sunday of Advent was a mess. Nothing really happened like I wanted it to. The lighting of the Advent wreath was bumpy and awkward, and the acolyte waited too long to start processing at the end of the service. Afterward, someone came up and said, “Thank you for such a beautiful service.” I nearly laughed until I saw that she was serious. Thanks be to God for beauty in the breakdown, for light in the darkness, for hope in the midst of grief.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Washington DC

Our trip to DC was a little strange due to Superstorm Sandy. Fortunately, the storm held off through the marathon, but that night, the weather started to deteriorate. I was hoping to spend time with some friends who were also in town for the marathon, but they decided to head back up the coast. After soaking my aching legs in a long hot bath, I was ready for some food and drink, and we scored a last minute reservation at Jaleo. And I wore my medal because I earned that thing.


Joe enjoyed some sangria, and I had a few glasses of a Grenacha while we tried to re-book our cancelled flights from our phones. Ever since our honeymoon, Joe has been in search of paella that can live up to the honeymoon paella, and this seemed as good of a place as any. First though, we started with a few tapas. The housemade chorizo with olive oil mashed potatoes was particularly remarkable, and our waiter talked us into the liquid olives – my first experience with molecular gastronomy.


The paella was also incredible but not as photogenic, and we ended up with a lot of food. I heard the couple next to us make a snide remark about the pictures I was taking, but I didn’t care. After running 26.2 miles, I couldn’t exactly say no to dessert either.


Everything that we had was so inventive and beautifully presented. On our way out the door, we stopped to chat with another woman who was wearing her medal, and we heard the hostess calling people with reservations for the next day to cancel them. It was raining pretty hard on our walk back to the hotel, so we stopped off for some Goose Island Matilda on draft.

The next day we were rained in. Everything was closed, the Metro was shut down, and we had to resort to hotel food. While it was a bummer that we were kind of stuck, I was very thankful for the hotel staff. We had a reservation for Rasika Monday night, but it was cancelled. Fortunately, I was able to make another reservation for the next night.

Tuesday was still kind of rainy and icky, though there didn’t appear to be any serious damage near us, and all of the Smithsonian museums were still closed. We found a diner that was open and figured out that the International Spy Museum was the only museum in town open, which was fine by me because I love espionage. While we were walking around, I went to visit Scully and Mulder.


The spy museum was really fun and not somewhere that would’ve been our first choice normally. We walked around the National Mall and visited our buddy Abe.


The weird part about running Marine Corps Marathon is that I was totally oblivious to the landmarks we were near, in part because I was trying to not run into everyone around me and partially due to my glycogen-depleted brain. So it was nice to see everything when I wasn’t surrounded by people. For example, I had NO idea that the Capitol building was behind me in this picture.


Anyway, we walked up through Foggy Bottom and met my friend for a few drinks before heading to Rasika, where we decided to go big or go home: 6-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with wine pairings. It was really dark, so I didn’t get many pictures, but the black cod, palak chaat, and Konkani scallops were amazing. It was the most incredible Indian food I’ve ever had. We were SO full walking back to our hotel. I couldn’t even finish my dessert sampler.


Hopefully, the next time we go back to Washington, there won’t be a Superstorm since I didn’t get to see a quarter of what I wanted to, though we still had a good time.