The Lenten Wilderness

Posted: February 25, 2018 by Ty in Spirituality
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It was the flashbacks I truly did not want to relive. A week from hell for me emotionally, mentally and spiritually as the last vestige of healing scar tissue was torn away through neuro events. But it is the struggle to reclaim what is good in the memory, to re-heal. Not just succumb to the darkness of loss. Yet it is hard when you realize how drastically a system failed her, a system that sees nothing wrong in their actions, a system that blamed her child for not bringing her out of the mental illness they calcified in her soul. Her battle with cancer was long with many ups and downs that saw her transition living facilities many times throughout the years. From homestead to lodge to hospital to long-term care. The unfortunate piece of our health care system is no acknowledging the need for holistic care of the individual for cancer is not just physiological—it strips a person emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Therefore, we see defeat, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety. But the system is not designed to continually engage people at appropriate levels, I saw events planned that would hold no interest for anyone regardless of their capacity or health yet the system pushed these out as “social events” to build resiliency. A system where an ill-trained palliative person told my Mum she was dying. That night on the phone was one of the few times I heard my Mum swear with her “No shit Sherlock” comment…but it was the beginning of the downward, for it had made real that which her faith had been fighting against in our many phone talks multiple times a day, or when my family would visit her as often as we could.

But the time she heard the nurse yell at me in the hallway:

“You’re her son, get her to chipper up she’s only dying and has become a depressing person. That’s your job to make her happy and fix it.”

-The Nurse

                The nurse did not appreciate my retort and it is a family blog. But I saw pain in my Mum’s eyes for now she believed she was a burden.

It took a lot to get through the hassles and hoops of institutions from health to religion to get an Anglican priest to spend time with her. After she was broken spiritually and had given up her phone to speak to the outside world. The time of reconciliation when I spoke with her after the visit brought her soul piece. It proves to me that when talk of being palliative happens with patients there needs to be acknowledgement of their spiritual cultural roots and individuals from those roots should be involved in bringing the news, and reading the situation (and many who have known me know that I have been the one to sit and walk during this time). I do believe her outcome may not have changed, but the path there would have been immensely different.

Her last weekend, though, my old life loving Mum resurged, and she had time to play a little, joke and sing a little with her grandkids. Her Leland, had become her pal of comfort on family times and events ensuring his Nana was taken care of by sitting next to her and even with his cerebral palsy getting her things she needed. Her little Princess, was all about the songs and dancing and fancy Nancy times (My Mum would always chuckle how she skinned her chicken nuggets when we would go to McDonald’s). My kids were born after my Mum was diagnosed, but this weekend, this day I know it was the simpler joy of being family that mattered.

Sadly, a few days later my Mum’s journey would transition her to as my daughter always believes, the “great tea party” in Heaven being simply love.  Centennial Presbyterian Church would continue being apart of the life journey of our family (both myself and my daughter are VBS kids, we as a family had been members for a time).

It was the last place my Mum would publicly hear me preach.

“We could always come to your Mum if our family needed food and she had this pantry”

-Neighbour at her Celebration of Life Tea

It is the spiritual place that opened their building to our family. A place I celebrated her life, and yes even in the whispers I heard the hecklers stating I dishonoured, but allowed the majority of those that saw her light shine through drown out. For I knew I had shared everything she told me she wanted in a simple service, before high tea.

“Everything I have heard today makes me wish I could have known this quirky amazing loving lady who was a neighbour and Mum to many”

-Rev. Smith (from Centennial) attending to support my family.

And months later, it would be the last public sermon I would give in 2014 doing pulpit supply. I stood in the pulpit I had celebrated my Mum’s life, next to the altar that had bore her ashes. Knowing she would never be able to hear me again. Sit in the pew with that smile.

Do I miss preaching?

Yes. I have had opportunities to speak, but no pulpits have called since…perhaps one day one will again.

“One day a church will be brave enough to call you. When that happens, I will join and be there every Sunday to support you and your family.”

My Mum, on the many trials of churches I had traveled through


Paul Brandt’s Jesus Loves Me

Brad Paisley’s Me and Jesus

Paul Brandt’s Amazing Grace

End Notes:

  • I want to acknowledge and honour her family (blood and chosen (close friends)) that continued the journey with her, my Dad who was the hardest working, and loving husband and Dad during this time.
  • My Mum gave me an old King James Bible when I returned to church at 19 years old and began teaching Sunday School. She also bought me the bible I took with me and wore out in my years at Bible College. Growing up each summer until we aged out, she would register me for the Vacation Bible School at Centennial Presbyterian Church, she would always encourage a simple belief in God is love, and to do good things.
  • I did attempt to file complaints and advocate for better mental health care in rural Alberta at the time, but AHS and the Health Ministry under our previous government would not respond.
  • There was nothing nefarious on the timing of my last pulpit supply, I have been booked for speaking, teaching, and life celebrations since, but no pulpits have opened.
  • Mum memorial 

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