Always both things at once: a bench in a cemetery in memory of my beloved son, and a baccalaureate service and graduation ceremony tonight and tomorrow night.
Seminary has been a very different experience from the one I had anticipated. (Understatement there.) Many, many years ago, when it was nothing more than a passing thought (or so I surmised) in my mind, I had lunch one day with a student in-process from my then-church. He was in (or past!) mid-life, a hugely successful trial attorney; I was a mother of three young children. "Academically, you won't have any trouble," he said. "As an attorney, you're accustomed to digesting vast amounts of unfamiliar material." (What can I say? He's Methodist, and so Greek and Hebrew were not in the picture for him.) "But at this time of life, there are other things . . . ".
Oh yeah. There are.
Yesterday, someone from my school posted a FB comment for someone else: "I can promise you that nothing in life will ever be as difficult as that Greek paper you just finished for Dr. X."
I can't say that I exactly laughed. And seriously, my hopes for the two of them go something like this:
As we planted flowers around the bench the other day, my friend, whose husband has been seriously ill and increasingly and almost completely disabled over the last sixteen years, told me of a conversation she had had with a friend when our kids were small and she was agonizing over where to send her son to preschool. (Thankfully, she eventually chose the Montessori school in which my children were enrolled, setting the stage for our wonderful friendship of twenty years.) Her friend, a Holocaust survivor, leaned over and said, "Sweetie . . . may this be the most difficult challenge of your life."
Well, I thought Greek was pretty awful when it was on my plate, and Hebrew wasn't much better. But overall, my academic career has gone well. I wish I could have been involved in the activities and events to which I had looked forward during my second and third year of seminary but, as I've said before, grief takes about 500% of your energy. Whatever else you have to do gets squeezed into what's left. So I squeezed in what I could, and fantastic professors and wonderful friendships came my way. And while I wondered pretty much 24/7 what I could possibly have to offer in ministry, I don't think I ever wavered from the sense that it is the call to which God is beckoning me. Even when God's silence was deafening. Oh, I wobbled a lot. I guess it's a good thing that I crossed all those creeks via unstable logs when I was growing up. I wobbled a LOT, but I didn't fall off.
Last night I got an email from someone at my field ed church, telling me how much it meant to have me there, knowing that as the year passed, I was experiencing the holidays as she was. I had not known that she felt that way. I figured that people just thought that . . oh, who knows what they thought? But at least one person was apparently seeing it more or less like this: "She knows exactly the sorrow I know, and she's leading the Call to Worship anyway."
Perhaps that's why . . .
I'm graduating! (And yes, I'm going.)
(P.S. Three more miles yesterday and three in the next couple of hours, for a total of 13. I'm somewhere in the vicinity of Wellfleet now.)