I stand in front of the electricity distribution board. There are two switches for the geyser. I do not know in what order to push them up. The one switch makes an empty clicking sound and just flips back. I start praying. I try to switch them on in different order. Nothing works. I close my eyes. I push the switch up in slow motion. This time it stays. Your death has thrown my trip switch, my Beloved. My life finds itself in the dark unknown. I cannot see my way ahead.
The definition of dislocate says the following: “It is an injury to a joint – a place where two or more bones come together – in which the bones are forced from their normal positions.” It also says: “If you suspect a dislocation, seek prompt medical attention to return your bones to their proper positions.” No medical attention can return me to the joint operating system of ‘us’. We knew how to flow together. We could complete each other’s sentences. We were “joined by the hip” as they say. Your death dislocated me out of the comfort of consulting you and leaning on you in my walk of life.
It is time for me to facilitate the last week of your dream course. The students are short on their practical hours and peer group supervision. How do I fill the gaps? What would you have done? How do I let your light shine in the darkness of your absence? I sent them an email about how we used to find our balance. You would point out a problem and explain how things could go wrong. You used to say that if you make the effort to fetch a baboon from behind the mountain, you might as well make it worthwhile and bring the whole troop. I would look you in the eyes and say: My Beloved, you complicate everything and I simplify everything. That was part of the way we made our ‘joint’ functional. The Zoom training begins. I put the students in groups of three in break-away rooms. In this safe space of confidentiality and growing in their skills set to be pastoral caregivers, I invite them to do ‘real plays’ and not ‘role plays’. Talk about something that is happening in your life. Give yourself an opportunity to be vulnerable and voice your pain and discomfort. They are scared and uncomfortable. Most of them do not even like doing role plays. I encourage them by saying that they need to be so far out of their comfort zone that they are looking for their skin. That is the place where we truly grow.
The breakaway groups become holy ground. In a safe space we are heard. We practice to be present with someone in their pain. We guard against giving advice or preaching. We learn from our mistakes and see where we need to grow. As the 25 faces appear back on the screen at the end of the course, there is new light in their eyes. Everyone received the gift of being heard and comforted. The students describe the training as a transformation. We are thankful that we could complete together what you started, my Beloved. I realise that this is the last group of students that would have met you personally. My sense is that you applauded us from heaven today. We are still a good team, even while we are dislocated by death.
In my ‘real play’ the metaphor of a bird with a broken wing rings true. Am I willing to be grounded for now? Will I allow myself to be taken care of by others? Will I accept that I am caged in by grief and not fight with the cage but see its protection? Can I stop putting pressure on myself to move ahead? To be willing not to break out of the darkness of my discomfort and fear of the unknown?
Psalm 23:4 “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for You are near.” Thank You, my God, that in the dislocation of death and the darkness of grief, You are with me. Your covenant with me is never broken. Help me to be patient while my broken wing heals. I will fly again.