Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 30, 2008 - Snapshots in the Funeral Home

Today I stop by one of our local funeral homes, to attend visiting hours for Diane, a member of the Cancer Concern Center support group I used to attend. Diane was a multi-year survivor of breast cancer, but it caught up with her in the end.

I remember her as one of the most welcoming, affirming members of the group – even though she was one of the ones who found it hardest to stop calling me “Reverend,” and simply call me by my name. Some habits are hard to unlearn – especially for someone who grew up attending Catholic school, as she did. As a kid, she’d never have dreamed of calling a priest anything other than “Father,” and that formality carried over to a Protestant pastor like me.

I find I know only a few other people in the room – one other member of the support group, and a couple I know from some other contexts. I explain to Diane’s daughter how I knew her mother from the Cancer Concern Center, and always found her to be a positive, affirming presence. I don’t identify myself as a pastor, just as a member of the support group.

There’s no casket present – must have been a cremation. I walk over and take a gander at the photo collages. There are several of these, jam-packed with snapshots of a smiling Diane with family and friends I’ve never met.

I feel a little out of place. I knew Diane from such a narrow segment of her life – the support group – and from a time when she wasn’t feeling her best. These are images of a life that was rich and full, until cancer burst in and overturned the game board, scattering the playing-pieces.

Still, I felt I ought to come. Diane was a fellow member of the cancer underground. I want to honor her memory.

As I lean close to the displays of photos, I feel a twinge of survivor’s guilt. Why her and not me? There’s no answer to that question. Why ask why?

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