It's been a week of miracles. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning our organist's 2-year-old son received a heart transplant, something he's been waiting for most of his life, really (13 months officially on the waiting list). I've been privileged to visit and see this huge team of specialists caring for him and to hear his parents go through the joys and fears that such a major surgery brings. There are more miracles than I can re-count, and it's not my place to do it here, anyway. . . but I am in continual awe.
At the same time (and here I'm aware I could sound like a scrooge), I wonder at how our society can do this -- provide a new heart to a child who a few years ago would never have made it past the first week of life -- and yet we cannot insure every child, cannot provide adequate prenatal care to every child, cannot cure diseases like malaria which afflict millions of children every year. It's not that this one boy doesn't deserve every ounce of care and attention he is getting in the ICU -- it's just that every child ought to have the same access, the same care.
In any case, the week has motivated me to do two things: donate blood again (I've been off the bandwagon since childbirth), and sign an organ donation card. I hope you'll consider doing the same.
The Southwest Journal has published a form of my last blog entry in their letters section. Unfortunately, they also included my name, so I may have to go by my husband's name for the next few months in any neighborhood setting. I stand by my words, but a humbler part of me than wrote the letter feels compelled to write my own letter of apology for neighborly sins. . .maybe some other time
Right now, I'm realizing how blessed I am to be in a ministry setting that is sane most of the time and at least POSSIBLE for a mother of small children during a week like the one I've had. It wasn't quite the perfect storm this week, but it was close. My co-pastor colleague headed out for vacation early in the week as a handful of pastoral situations were reaching some kind of equilibrium -- people were mostly out of the hospital, our musician whose son awaits a heart transplant is at least stable, and so on. Then Sunday night a member -- only 45 -- suffered a stroke. I spent most of the evening at the hospital. The next afternoon I visited a woman who was dying and was called back again in the evening for what they thought were her final breaths. She lived until Wednesday, and yesterday we firmed up memorial service plans.
And then there was the normal fall planning, a very full church council agenda, the next phase of our planning to accomodate and seek growth, and so on.
It was a very full week. I've already put in full-time hours and haven't really begun my sermon for Sunday. I have a cold, and my husband was out of town for the last 3 days, requiring hiring extra evening babysitters, and so on.
But -- and here I sound Minnesotan, but it's true -- it could have been much worse. My husband could have been out of town early in the week when those evening crises struck. My other colleague, Warren, who fills in the other 3rd of my hours, could have been out of town. Our office manager could have been on vacation this week instead of last.
It's increasingly clear to me that the expectations put on many pastors - and probably many other professionals -- are incompatible with two-career family life unless you have a huge support system, either paid or volunteer. You cannot simultaneously be "available" to anyone in need and adequately care for your children. You cannot care for your own health, maintain a full work schedule, and manage a household without employing extensive help or having a spouse (or grandparent) who will provide that help. And God help me if any of my children or my spouse has a significant health issue, as is the case for a few families with children at our church now. We all "manage" busy lives assuming that our carefully balanced towers will not get knocked by the winds of cancer or another serious health issue. When those winds do come, you can't rebuild it the way it was before. The whole structure has to be reconsidered.
A lot of people are still pretty irritated that we can't just rebuild family life the way it was before women worked extensively outside the home, but maybe the disarray that is now what people call "work-family issues" is a blessing in disguise for all those who never fit into the old system anyway -- those whose spouses couldn't work all day, those who were divorced, those who were widowed, the men who did the hard-driven careers and died before their children were grown. We've got a long way to go, but there's room amidst the chaos to do this a little differently now, and that's a good thing.