Soundtrack of My Life - Feeling Sinister

Yesterday, I mused a bit about the soundtrack of my life, as my college age self tried to navigate a world where suffering exists. Today we shift to my 30-something self, still trying to make sense of suffering but in the downright dirty and personal sense. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to prepare you for seeing someone you love suffer and die. And yet, it’s such an integral part of life that I think everyone goes through—or works hard to avoid.

This isn’t the soundtrack of this particular moment of my life, but Death Cab for Cutie actually get pretty close to describing what it’s like in their song “What Sarah Said”:

And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU …
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me
Away from me …
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die"

Let’s just say that the experience of seeing someone you love suffer both breaks your heart and permanently expands it. At least, in my case that seems to be what happened … in the long term.

In the short term though, it just made me feel sinister. Which leads me to the soundtrack moment of this particular post … “If You’re Feeling Sister” by the Scottish Pop Group Belle & Sebastian:

If you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
He’ll try in vain to take away the pain
Of being a hopeless unbeliever.
La la la la la la.

The moment was the summer before my Mom died, after two years of sitting in the ICU and the hospital and the nursing home and my cubicle as I tried to get along with work and pretend that the world hadn’t shifted in incomprehensible ways. I was cynical and angry and confused and unhappy and bitter and, well, sinister. Irrational as I knew it to be, I felt guilty that I’d stop hoping or praying or believing that she’d get better. I just wanted her suffering to end.

And while I was feeling sinister, I did not go off to see the minister. Not only did I stop praying, I stopped going to church entirely. Now, seeing as I’d become the quintessential church geek this was a bit of a challenge. I went through the motions, attending the occasional peace & justice commission meeting and teaching the occasional Sunday School Class. But even when I was there, I wasn’t there. I thought I just needed some space to work things out. That space though, turned into something not so good which left me feeling all alone and decidedly more sinister. Which is where the minister comes in.

I didn’t go see the minister, but he called me. Fr. Steve called one day for some bogus reason. I think he had said he wanted to chat about selling fair trade coffee after mass. Really, he was opening a door. And his call was all the invitation I needed. That simple call brought me back. While I was no closer to understanding suffering in general, and certainly no closer to accepting the particulars of why my mom had to suffer so, I was able to open the door a crack again for the light of God’s peace to begin to defrost my cold heart. And for that, I am so very grateful.

Whenever I hear this Belle & Sebastian song, I think back to that phone call. And smile.

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