Thursday, July 28, 2005

Grief and Santa Tchotckes

As my congregation struggles to come to terms with its impending closure, one member remarked that it feels like a death in the family. This is even more true than she realizes, I think. The feelings folks are expressing are absolutely representative of the various manifestations of grief I've seen in bereaved parishoners over the years.

Guilt: If only I/we had done something differently, this would not have happened.
Blaming: It's THEIR fault, THEY could have stopped/prevented this from happening.
Minimizing: It's for the best. She was suffering. She lived a good long life.
Globalizing: I'll never love again. This was the only place for me.

And . . . Fighting over the Deceased Possessions: The daughter of a member who died last year called to see if she could come get a couple of Christmas decorations her mother had bought for the church in the past. I said sure. She came over and was distressed to discover that one particular item was missing. I remember the item well. It was a tiny sleigh with Santa and his reindeer. More than once I had to remind these reindeer that they were only allowed in the fellowship hall--not in the sanctuary, not in the narthex. I have a big feeling the reindeer were set free into the wider world last Christmas when a group did a big purge of the Christmas decoration bins.

For the still grieving daughter, though, this missing-in-action tchotcke was symbolic of the many perceived slights to her mother at the hands of other church members over the years. And of course, in her mind it is these same members whose selfish, power-grasping, unchristian behavior has brought low the church her mother loved more than life itself.

Ah well.


cheesehead said...

Your congregation is in my prayers...every time a tchotcke is "donated" to my church I check it for the strings attached!

Kathryn said...

Do you have a date when the formal process will be completed? It must be very hard trying to carry on and hold things together in the meantime: you're in my prayers.

Sue said...

When my mom died 13 years ago, our family donated a lovely painting to the renal unit where she was dialysed for almost a year. The staff loved it and it hung there for several years.

That hospital closed and the unit moved into a new building. As far as I know, the painting was not re-hung. I'm ok with that. I honestly didn't expect it to be on display forever.

I just don't get it when people freak out because the church doesn't laminate itself in the past.

LutheranChik said...

We had people in our congregation -- usually a pretty laid-back bunch -- pitch a fit when we had a function in the fellowship hall and the organizers failed to use memorial folding chairs from some long-ago bequest, instead of the plain ol' generic folding chairs. Gaaah!

PPB said...

Oh I've been there. Sometimes a Santa is just a Santa, and sometimes a Santa is symbolic of much, much more.

Bless you in these days. I can't imagine.

St. Casserole said...

Great post. Thanks for writing about this because your perspective and abilities are rare.
Thinking of you and glad to read your blog.