My grandmother passed away a few days ago.
I wrote before of the tender acts of service she received before she passed – the pots of soup, the flowers that kept her home cheery and beautiful, the visits from family members and friends who were touched by her life. The final weeks of her life were filled with even more tender watchcare – her husband, her children, and her grandchildren were able to show their love for her by tenderly washing her body, rubbing her feet, sitting with her, holding her hand, administering medicine, helping her walk – literally sustaining her all the way through her final breaths on earth. She was so loved by her family – it was simultaneously a time of holy ministry and tremendous grief.
I’ve thought a lot about those final months – how we were all desperate to see her one last time, to give her one last hug or to say one last “I love you.” We knew that our mortal separation was imminent, and so it seemed like we were all frantic to make sure that we crammed in as many experiences and loving words as we possibly could. We didn’t know the day or hour that she would die, but we knew it would be soon, and the impending separation drove us to her bedside.
I’ve heard before that the threat of separation is what bonds us – we would have no incentive to get to know one another or spend time with each other if there were no risk of it ever being over. If we had infinite time, we wouldn’t feel the pressure to uncover the stories that motivate us, or feel anxious to say the things in our hearts. After all, when people are in a life-threatening situation, don’t they call the people in their lives to say one more “I love you?” When we see the news of a child accidentally drowning in a pool, don’t we hug our children a little tighter and treat them a little kinder? We sometimes have the illusion of having all the time in the world – when I lived in Indiana, where I truly thought our family would live forever, I admit that I had little motivation to go to every single play date or make sure I attended every book club. But after our situation abruptly changed and I was faced with just a few weeks before we moved out of state, I felt a frenzied need to talk with my friends just one last time, or to go grab cheesecake one last time, or to sit and talk with them one last time.
And yet, while I find so much beautiful truth in it, this concept of separation as a bonding agent makes me a tiny bit worried about our faith communities. While the initial shock has mostly subsided, there is still so much pain out there – so many Mormon feminists are just plain tired, and many are walking away.
And what really, really bothers me is that so few people seem to really care.
True, the Mormon feminist community grieves it heavily. And there are some Bishops and other church leaders who are truly concerned about the exodus of people from the church that has been happening for quite some time. But what I mostly see is people brushing it off, saying things like “Those people never really had testimonies in the first place,” or “Good! It’s about time they go find another church!” It’s like an acceptable cost to many members – there is no grief, no rush to the bedside of those who are spiritually ailing. No casseroles brought to their homes, or pleas for them to stay. No pronouncement from church headquarters, begging people to stick it out and proclaiming their love for each member.
And it just makes me wonder – are we not bonded? Where have we failed? What are we missing that we don’t more fully grieve the loss of our brothers and sisters from our community?