Friday, January 02, 2004

Thelma's Rehearsal Story

Two weeks ago, 94-year-old Thelma told me during a pastoral care visit that she'd recently found a story she'd written "for some reason" about the earliest Christmas she can remember. She described going to her grandmother's house on a frosty Christmas morning in a "storm buggy" that was reserved only for extra-special outings. She remembered the candles on the tree and the special gift of the fur muff and hat (expensive presents for her parents to give) that she used to keep her warm on the ride. She sat snuggled between her "mommy and daddy" (as she still calls them today) and said her little brother Will rode on her mother's lap. It was a comforting, wonderful memory of a special day and an exciting, anticipated outing.

As I read Listening & Caring Skills by John Savage in preparation for my CPE work beginning next Monday, I realized that Thelma's story was a rehearsal story, a story about her own next passage, hopefully also done in the companionship of her dear parents. After a series of falls in a world that continues to grow ever smaller, Thelma is preparing to die. This realization moved so solidly into my consciousness that I knew it was true. I wish I had been more conscious of the meaning of her story so that I might have been able to meet her in it. For now maybe the most important thing was to hear in it her own curious preparation and the anticipation of a hopefully wonderful trip. I didn't know what I was affirming for her, but as she told the story it seemed to bring her peace and hope.


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