I want to tell you something about the picture of me on the page called About, a few pages back from where you are now.
It was taken on the day I signed final papers for my divorce from Richard, outside the courthouse in Burlington, Vermont. I remember feeling that it was very strange, to sit in a lawyer's office and end a marriage that had contained love and children, travel, good food and wine, dogs, a pool, a lake, friends, a dirt road, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, holidays, fireside chats, a colorful home ... to sit in an office with a great view of a nice city and sign papers saying it was all done. It was very weird; it was seven years ago.
When I came out of the building there was a tow truck taking my car away. I had neglected to pay a parking ticket earlier in time and now the City of Burlington was taking my car.
I thought I was done with weird for that day.
I thought I could sweet talk the traffic cop out of taking my car with the I just signed divorce papers! plea, but he was very official and stuck to his guns, a good worker bee. They didn't have to take it to the lot, though, he said, if I paid the fine in cash on the spot, they would take it down off the truck.
Which I did. I ran to an ATM machine and got the money and gave it to the guy. I don't remember what we were laughing about when my friend took the picture, but clearly we were enjoying ourselves.
Life is very funny this way, the way that sorrow and joy can be all crumpled together into one thing, one moment.
It happened yesterday when someone I love told me she has cancer. She is one of the funniest people I know, so we found the funny in the cancer. But we cried, too, because cancer sucks. It just does and no amount of funny can take that away.
But it can temper it a bit. Divorce papers and car-towing aren't funny at all, but you can find humor in there somewhere, if you are willing.
Because of the professions that have chosen me, on any given day I can spend hours with people who are dying then come home and get a phone call from someone whose husband recently had a heart attack, a message from a friend whose brother is in a coma and whose family needs help coming to terms with their new reality, and a phone call from a friend whose mother just died. Then I might wake up the next day and get a cancer text.
True story, my life. All of this a day after my favorite hospice patient died. You can't kid yourself as a hospice chaplain, you really fall in love with some of them. This one was captivating in every way and I loved him. He didn't want to die and I didn't want him to die either. There was so much more for us to talk about. I was hoping we'd have some time together under the springtime sun.
If I were to let it, this grief, the suffering, would kill me, too. But I won't. I love being alive. I wake up in the morning eager to start my day. I meet inspirational people and see so many beautiful places in my travels. And I find life to be infinitely funny even though a river of sorrow flows through my days.
I'm not really sure why I wanted to pause and tell you all of this this morning. I have to re-read my sermon and wash my hair; church starts in two hours. I think I just wanted you to remember the funny, the lightness, and how it's in there, in almost everything. Keep your heart open, don't let sorrow win the race. On Friday I sat with a lovely, so sweet woman in her 90s who wondered why she's still alive. Her hands and feet are betraying her with swelling; she can't do the things she used to do. Why are you here? I countered, so I could meet you and hear your stories. You matter, I told her, while you are alive, until you take your very last breath, you are meant to be here.
She looked right at me while I told her this; she listened very carefully and she smiled.