"The Warmth of Her Hand, the Pain in Her Eyes"
I found this touching reflection on Rev. Cathy's Facebook page. Written on August 30, 2017, it refers to a woman whose children were isolated in floods caused by Hurricane Harvey. -- Editor
The beauty, the frailty of life.
Sitting at the lab early this morning, waiting to have blood drawn, a patient more than a chaplain, I’m approached by an older woman who veers in my direction on her way to the door.
“Are you Episcopal?” she says. This is a first; never have I been so precisely identified by a stranger. Usually if anything I’m taken for a Roman Catholic nun, which is fine with me, though I’ve never seen one in a dog collar. I tell her I am, and she reaches toward me, and asks me to pray for her. The warmth of her hand; the pain in her eyes. Her name is Lillian.
A minute later, still feeling that warmth, I’m informed that my collar is hanging half off; in my early departure, I’d failed to connect the back button. Which actually is an improvement over all the times I forget to put it on at all, and have to go back.
The one who points out my wardrobe malfunction also tells me that her two children have been sitting in a half-flooded house in Texas, in the cold dark, imagining some getaway when daylight comes, because the water is still rising.
"If a collar is what opens the conversation, what emblem could we all wear to say, I’m here for you?"
I could make this a meditation on the sacredness of ordained ministry, hearing these stories, being present to pain and worry, but really, any of us could do this. Collar half off, or no collar at all.
You listen, you nod, you squeeze the hand that’s placed in yours. I've learned to say hmmm with a hundred different intonations.
If a collar is what opens the conversation, what emblem could we all wear to say, I’m here for you? Because it turns out that the beauty and the frailty of life are not opposing qualities. It’s precisely in the frailty, and our response, that the beauty is uncovered.
The warmth of her hand, the pain in her eyes. Of your kindness, if you’re so inclined, please say a prayer for Lillian today.
Photo by Catherine D. Kerr
The Rev. Catherine Kerr became Pastor of Good Shepherd Church on Ash Wednesday in 2014. Her first career was in journalism, and she was a reporter and editor at newspapers including Newsday, the Times of Trenton and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She received a Master of Divinity Degree with honors from General Theological Seminary in 2012 and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from General in 2013, and now she likes to say that she has the greatest communications job on earth. You can find her evocative photographs on Instagram at instagram.com/catherinedkerr and her thoughtful observations on life on Facebook at facebook.com/cdkerr .