From Deacon Teri Van Huss
This past March, I lost my middle child….it was not unexpected, as he was profoundly disabled, required 24-hour nursing care, and was 36 years old (a life-span well beyond what might be expected), and yet it was unexpected and it went badly. This is the child who taught me everything I know about serving others, about how every life has value, and he was the toughest kid you ever met. He is the why and the way I became a deacon. The thing about having children with disabilities is that you live a life walking with grief. Grieving the child you didn’t have, learning that you’re not crazy having all these feelings of sadness and anger and denial as you come to grips with your child’s reality. Knowing a seizure could take him at any time. Here I was, in the middle of Lent, with years and years of grief training as a peer-parent advocate, and I’m in absolute shock – my mom gave it the phrase “gob-smacked” – and still, the Spirit that has always surrounded TJ, is handing out gifts! Turns out he has money from the State to pay for everything…he has a mountain of clothes that fit all of us…the effect of this kid is still being felt.
Then very quickly, Easter week looms, and I know that by Saturday of the Easter Vigil I have to be able to sing “Rejoice and be glad now….” I somehow knew that if I immersed myself in all the services it would help. It was amazing – especially the vision on Good Friday that showed me he was fine, and being with Mother Gail at the Vigil where she had me do the baptisms – the blessings through that week were endless.
What I sort of knew all along, and what I’ve been able to verbalize now, is the absolute healing effect of liturgy, of ceremony, the communalness of walking through this story of despair, and anguish, and then hope, with others. We know this about our liturgies, but maybe we don’t realize how true it can be for us.
We waited until June to have a funeral service for him. We were surrounded by lots of folks who knew him, including the Care Home nurses he lived with, the folks who helped him ride horses for years, his church family – and our amazing resurrection liturgy. I have friends who’ve never been to the Episcopal Church say there is no question that child is in heaven….the Words said it plainly.
Over the five years being a deacon, I have developed a dismissal based on the Navajo Blessingway – a ceremony about healing and walking in beauty. I never really understood the last sentence of it until I turned to face him at the end of the service and said “In beauty it is finished.”
May you all walk in beauty – before you, behind you, below you, above you, all around you – and may the beauty of our liturgies enfold you with life and healing.