Today, after lunch after worship, I went to one of our senior living communities to preside over our monthly communion there. I love doing that – extending the morning’s table to a group of our saints who can’t make it to the church in the morning. For some, it’s too hard to physically get into the van that brings them to church, and then too hard to climb even a few stairs. For others, one hour-ish is just too long to sit in a less than comfortable pew with restrooms too far away.
So we take church to them, gladly. Two retired clergy who live in this place, and who worship with us regularly, organize the whole thing and I appreciate that. These two guys could easily play Statler and Waldorf – the old Muppets commentating in the balcony. They love to make cranky observations about church, but I’ve learned as I watch them minister to the saints at communion that you only have to dust off that fine powder of curmudgeon to discover some sweet and compassionate men.
When I arrived at our communion place, which is also where people gather to watch movies and assemble jigsaw puzzles, one of the deacons told me that a regular wasn’t feeling well enough to join the group; could we take communion to her? Of course. As we went to her room, we passed one room where a church member recently died. Farther down the hall, we passed the room where that woman’s husband died a year or so earlier. Other people now live in those rooms.
It was odd passing those rooms where I spent a few very intense hours as they lay dying. It’s odd that other people live there now. It’s odd that those place which were so holy during those dying days are now rooms for another purpose. Is the holinesss still there? Or did it leave with the soul of the departed?
After communion I stopped by the hospital to visit another member who has been unconscious in the intensive care unit for ten days now. She’s another saint of the church. At 93, she’s been taking French lesson. As I entered the ICU, I passed by the room where a member was recovering from a stroke. She has since passed, but I remember the conversations she and I had in that room, and the prayers shared there with family and friends.
So I’m feeling a bit haunted today; haunted by the memory of people who have died, haunted in spaces they inhabited, haunted not so much by their death but by their absence. It’s odd to feel haunted on the first day of Advent. Of all the things this season is about, mourning loss or even just remembering it doesn’t quite fit the bill. It’s a season of light and dark, of portents and hope, of God breaking into the world. It’s not about our breaking out of the world, or about emptiness.
But maybe it is. Maybe Advent is about loss, in a way – the loss of the old way of doing things, the loss of the old understanding of how God does things. And maybe it’s a little okay to be haunted by that.