Sunday, August 11, 2019

Work and Windows

I was a hospital chaplain for 28 years and during that time I was the director of a grief recovery group for 17 years. Grief work involves parishes as well. This story applies to more than one situation. At present I would say it applies to the citizens of a nation as a metaphorical process for healing. 

Staying with a Pastoral Story

I want to tell you about LeRoy. His 13-year-old son died of cancer a number of years ago. The son was quite a phenomenon. His mother was his main parakaleo, called one alongside, chaplain, and pastor. I supported her and the father. Mark drew pictures of his illness experience. Before the diagnosis his pictures of nature were tranquil. After the diagnosis of cancer all the creatures had claws and bared teeth. He drew all the stages of dying, if one can call them stages. He called himself a "telephone pole" to reinforce his self awareness about communicating his experience. When I negotiated through his mother to put his pictures on slides he gave permission with the addition, "I get the royalties." He died. And the missing picture was that of acceptance and peace that Dr. Kubler Ross talks about. His mother found it later at home done in pencil and hiding among other drawings. It showed a Russian rocket with a ray gun going over the earth and everything in its path was cracking up and falling to pieces, except the grave stone, with the letters RIP, Rest In Peace. He drew the descent/ascent transformation model. 

LeRoy said at the time of Mark's death, "I don't want my sons death to be in vain." LeRoy came to the Grief Recovery Group. Later he took the Befriender training. He worked with the Grief Recovery Group serving as coordinator for the group with the loss of a child. He did that a number of years plus twice a year he gave the same talk -- each time with energy and meaning. The title of his presentation: "Work and Windows" -- two metaphors. Grief was pure work, energy draining, with aimless wandering. He drew a meandering line going all over the newsprint; down, up, alongside, down and up again, curving around. A person can not grieve all the time. Therefore, you have to take time out. And then he would put windows at different points along the line. He called them "window time" when you look out and see where you have been and what is happening. He would tell his own story and his experiences with the grief group. He shared various feelings and confusions he had known as well as what he learned in those essential "window" times. This was his hermeneutic diagram to interpret and provide meaning for his journey. 

LeRoy is retired now and working with another support group. I said I would like to use the image of "Work and Windows" in my presentations for the Wayne Oates Institute on the healing power of stories. I'll dedicate it to Mark. His death has not been in vain. LeRoy gave permission and thanked me. You can move the "Work and Windows" method to any situation in life. Whatever is work requires a window time for reflection and review. Window time makes for remembering, a chance to make new connections, where opposites are reconciled, Sabbath time. The story is well received in the seminar and feed back affirms the "Work and Windows" story is being told in many different places. 

As we stay with the story, and as we stay with relationships, the work of the staying (Parakaleo - called one alongside) brings new windows and new vistas for seeing (peregranatio - our journey with God). this is equally true in the management field, parish life, or any location for both learning and community building. The health effect is one of being healed and energized. The story effect is one of knowing you are both one and yet part of a larger story: The story of God with the community of humankind. 

Now we are into a methodology for the journey. Work and Windows is old stuff in new clothes. God created in six days with window time each day in the litany. God saw that it was good. God allows for remembering and recollecting. He rested on the seventh day. Sabbath time is a big window. 

I do not recommend the lone ranger approach nor is it healthy to keep our feelings and thoughts bottled up within. Then venting emotions as in dumping on another isn't very helpful either.  I want to promote Work and Windows as both actual and metaphorical for staying with our story for keeping our learning close to our day to day relationships (work), and for sharing our discoveries with each other as a practicing community (windows).

There are a number of ways of talking about the process told in the above story. 

I have been told by a Jewish mystic the Hebrew letters in the word Shalom follow the same pattern. S, shin, with three prongs represents fire which opens the door to understanding. God must be trying to tell us something through different ways to make the same connection, complete, mem. 

We are not always quick to catch on. This is not unlike Jesus use of the Greek word susnesis in Mark 6 where it is translated understand. Understanding requires making connections. Understanding requires interpretation. Starting with us, God wants us to understand at the deepest levels for meaningful lives in serving others.

Marlin, A. P. C. (Ret.)

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