March 13, 2006

Where I've been, what I've heard

This past weekend, 10-12 Third Month, I was in the Cincinnati area for a retreat sponsored by FGC's Traveling Ministries Program. Friends who travel in the ministry, or who have emerging gifts of ministry, were invited to attend and to bring along either a Friend from their ongoing support committee (FGC calls them "anchor committees") or from the meeting's Ministry & Counsel Committee.

I was taken aback and made low to have received an invitation, since I do not yet have a travel minute from the meeting, but the committee that has been working with me for clearness was very encouraging--and insistent--about my being at the retreat.

I need more time to consider what I may feel prompted to share about what happened at the retreat, other than this:

While there, word came to one Friend, and then another, and another, about the discovery of Tom Fox's body. It was around 10:00 p.m. on Friday night when those first few Friends received word, and many Friends who had turned in early after a day of travel were awoken so they would hear it, Friend to Friend.

The news of hearing about Tom Fox might be for me one of those moments that is sealed in time, like where you were when the space shuttle Challenger blew up, or when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, or if you are older, when Kennedy was shot.

Five minutes prior to hearing about Tom Fox, I had received a phone call from my partner:

She was in the emergency room with possible appendicitis.
So it was that while 50 other Friends were integrating the news about a body in Baghdad, I was integrating the news that my beloved was a few hundred miles away in a hospital bed.

I was able to tell a few Friends my own news, since some where there who know both of us. One Friend, already heavy-hearted with the CPT news, dropped her backpack and threw her arms around me in genuine concern when she heard. I was moved deeply that someone's heart had had enough space to carry my news, too.

As the minutes ticked on for me on Friday night, I felt God's Grace alight in my heart. I was told I could rest easy, stay put, and get some sleep. I wondered how I could possibly sleep, but God made it so. I was awoken in the middle of the night by a follow-up call, that my partner was admitted; that there'd be more tests; that someone was with her; that everyone felt I should stay where I was.

The next morning, I was told that my partner's counts were going down... and that our very own doctor was doing rounds at that hospital that particular day! Blessed indeed. I was also told that it was unlikely that surgery would be needed, and if my partner weren't discharged by the end of the day, she'd probably be discharged on Sunday.

In-between my getting a few hours of solid sleep on Friday night and my getting an optimistic update on Saturday morning, the participants in the retreat gathered for a scheduled meeting for worship. The retreat planners were aware that not everyone would have heard the news from the night before, and as we settled into the early stillness of the day, one of the planners arose and read the letter that is posted on the CPT website about grieving Tom Fox.

We fell into an impromptu sort of Meeting for Worship for Memorial, and we were also reminded by the planners that our work is to be faithful to how we are called, to live into the space between the feelings around Tom Fox's death and the work that God calls us to bring out into the world.

As the weekend went on, we shifted from sharing our grief and shock to sharing what it means to be doing the work we are doing, be it as a Friend with a spiritual concern or as a Friend providing care and nurture to such a Friend.

I also learned definitively that no surgery would be needed for my partner, despite the diagnosis of "slight appendicitis." More than a few of us back home and at the retreat chuckled over that: Is that like being a little bit pregnant?

On First Day after extended worship and lunch, we all made our way to the airport or otherwise hit the road for the long trips home. I was scheduled to fly out the next day--I like having a bit slower pace for traveling to events like this--but I heard reports of a major snowstorm brewing for Minnesota. I had the sense that I'd be better off riding a small plane into the beginning of a storm on Sunday night rather than riding a bigger plane into the tail-end of a storm on Monday morning.

My discernment paid off. The airport was closed on Monday, but I was already safe and warm--and with my partner, appendix and all!--on Sunday night.


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