I write this entry with a heavy heart.  The mother of the pastor at our church is dying.  She has lived a very, very long and full life. She is loved by many, and many are suffering.  What can we do?

One of the most difficult things to do is to minister to those who are dying, and comfort those who mourn for the dying.  I mean, what can you say when encountering  the raw emotions of fear, anger, dread and loss?  It’s tough.  For me, it has always been especially difficult because I always want to be able to provide a solution to problems, and with end of life issues I sometimes feel useless.  Have you ever felt this way?

In our lives, all of us will at some point be called to participate in this ministry of love. Can we as Christians help the dying to face the end of life?  Is there a secret to giving comfort to those facing the loss of a loved one?  Some people seem able to deal with these issues far better than others.  Why is that?

I learned the answer to that last question from the highest possible authority.  That’s right, I learned it from my beloved wife.  I have watched her over the years bringing comfort to those who mourn.  I have seen her calm the fears of those about to leave this world.  She seems to be a miracle worker … but she’s not.  She’s just a very good Christian woman who knows a secret.  Do you want to know the secret?

It’s presence.  It’s being there.  It’s deciding to reprioritize your day (or days) and be present,  a presence that reminds the dying that that they are not alone, and that those who are suffering the loss of someone they love are not alone.  It’s not what we say. Rather, it’s what we do, and more importantly who we are.

Mary and the other women wept at the foot of Jesus’ cross.  They were present.  Jesus saw them and took comfort from them.  Some would say that they were powerless.  They are wrong.  Being present can be one of the greatest gifts we can give, especially to those who are near to death.

Give the suffering the gift of your presence!

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5 Responses to Presence

  1. Lee Surkin says:

    You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
    You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
    You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
    You shall see the face of God and live.
    If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
    If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
    If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side, know that
    I am with you through it all.
    Be not afraid.
    I go before you always.
    Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

  2. Mary Thomas says:

    Gary, while you do not feel you are able to give the comfort that is needed, I think you are being too hard on yourself. Ellen may be better at it than you because she is a mother and counselor and that gives her an advantage as being a life giver. You are better than you think at what you do because of Ellen and what you he together as well as your ministry to our parish family, your family, friends you simply do not see it through our eyes. I sit here writing this with tear of joy in my eyes because of what you, ellen and our parish family have done for me. Thank you and have a wonderfully blest day.

  3. Mary Washburn says:

    Very well said Gary, Mrs. Kunkel has been the matriarch of St. Mary’s for so many years. She has graced us with her loving presence in the parish and filled us with the spirit of the Lord. She gave us guidance when we knew of babies who were suffering and would tell us of the miracle of her Karen’s life with the devotion of Mother Cabrini she held dear in her heart for Karen’s healing as a very young baby. We in turn have a great devotion to Mother Cabrini who has given hope to many babies throughout the years for the healing. She will be dearly missed. May God’s comfort and love surround Father Kunkel and Karen at this time of great loss.

  4. Nancy Novicki says:

    So many thoughts on this! I lost my mother when I was 12. Never felt a ” motherly”
    affection toward anyone until Ms. Catherine. She has always been so kind toward
    me and I’m feeling really down but realize it’s her time. For the past few months,
    whenever I would visit, she would tell me how much she wanted to go and how
    tired she was. She had a very interesting life and I will miss her and her stories
    very much. Heart goes out to Father!
    Talking to Ellen last night, she said you (Gary) we’re at the hospital. She also said
    how contagious the area was but who was there giving comfort and love, you were.
    Don’t sell yourself short. You bring so much to St. Mary’ s parish community and
    are so well liked and appreciated. But the most important thing, my grandson, Zak,
    likes you. Thanks for all you and Ellen do and she, too, is an inspiration!

  5. Louise says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with Fr. Kunkel’s family during this sad time. I know that you and Ellen being there for them is helping them during their grief. Just being there holding someone’s hand and letting them talk and express their grief can make all the difference. God bless the Kunkel family and I will keep them in my prayers.

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