I’m back! At work that is. After 4 months, yesterday was my first day back with the good people of the Olds-Sundre Pastoral Charge. It was so good to be welcomed back…complete with two person escort and the singing of “Halle, Halle, Halle” as we walked forth, in Olds, and lots of hugs and words of welcome in both Olds and Sundre!
My final week of sabbatical included a day at Chinook Winds Region’s first ever clergy retreat day. It was held in Calgary, and most of the attendees were quite local to Calgary, as the weather contributed to those further away who had planned on attending from doing so. We braved the drive, knowing that Calgary and points south had more of the snow than we did in Olds. And, I had a driver…my spouse had an appointment in the city, so we managed to combine our travel.
This allowed my spouse, after his appointment, to spend some time in the afternoon with my dad, before he needed to come pick me up in the north end of the city. Suffice it to say, that afternoon drive across the city served as a good reminder as to why we like smaller town life. A snow storm related traffic jam means maybe a 5 minute delay in Olds…while it took my spouse more than triple the 45 minutes it would have taken him in good weather, to make it to my location. I am grateful to the colleague that dropped me off at a coffee shop where I could wait for my ride in warm comfort, and enjoy a moccachino while I did a crossword.
The morning speaker at the retreat event – Barb Higgins, was particularly impactful for me. She spoke on vicarious trauma – the kind of trauma we experience indirectly, not as players in the event, but as responders or care-givers, journalists, and others who find themselves affected vicariously, by events that have been traumatic. Barb, a former journalist, spoke of her own experience of that, and was able to connect it to what we, as clergy, may experience as we respond to the needs of those in our circles who have been through trauma.
In terms of my profession, I have experienced that kind of trauma, and have sought out help with that when I did. In that respect, Barb’s presentation was affirming of the steps I had taken.
On a more personal level, where I found key connections were in my and my sister’s experience of being present with my mom as she died. There were some aggressive interventions that happened in the last moments of my mom’s life, that my sister and I are aware, have had lasting impact on us both.
Five months in, and I know that there is still work to be done. Listening to Barb’s talk, hearing some theoretical pieces of how that event has impacted my sister and I, and then hearing some practical, immediately applicable ways of addressing some of that was so valuable. It was for me one of those moments that I needed, without realizing how much I had needed it.
The truth is, as I enter back into the role of minister, and pastoral support, after 4 months away, I need to have my emotional ducks in a row…and the timing of my sabbatical gave me much needed time to do that work. I know there’s more work to do…each of those first days…Thanksgiving was different…Christmas will be too. And this coming Sunday, December 8th, would have been mom’s 90th birthday.
Being back at work, and in the Advent Season, that day will be full of worship and Community Carolfest. I am looking forward to having my oldest sister travelling alongside me that day, knowing my middle sister and her daughter will be with dad.
I also know that this Sunday I’ll be using a few of Barb Higgins’ tips for staying grounded in the moment, while holding in my heart my mom’s most important words, given to us whenever we were struggling with something… “You can work it out.”
Mom’s trust in my inner strength will see me through. And you can guess where that inner strength comes from. Thanks mom.