We’ve been home for two weeks, and I’m already falling behind in my average Apple Watch step count. Over the course of three months in Paris, we walked 480 miles and climbed 510,000 stairs, but who’s counting?
A few days ago, I watched the film "Midnight in Paris" and realized I knew all those streets, sidewalks and cafés. Paris really is a walking city – no wonder Parisians can consume so much bread, cheese, steak, frites, wine and chocolate and not get fat. So now, it’s back to my stationary bike, treadmill and calorie counting. And yes, I must find a clean, indoor swimming pool near my house.
Our three-month stay in Europe was life-changing. If you asked me a year ago what I’d be doing now, I couldn’t have imagined traveling around Europe and North America, preaching and teaching about dementia from the inside out. I couldn’t have imagined serving on the Association of Frontotemporal Degeneration’s Think Tank, much less keynoting their annual conference. I couldn’t have imagined writing this blog, talking with newly diagnosed individuals and their families, or leading retreats for those living with dementia. I’m beginning to wonder if something magical or miraculous happened when our transatlantic cruise ship crossed the Strait of Gibraltar at midnight on the first full moon of the spring equinox last April.
Did I shift with the lunar season? Perhaps.
While I am thankful for the gifts of my new ministry, I sometimes long for my old life. During the holidays, I really missed being a cathedral dean . My first Christmas Eve away from Trinity was one of my hardest days yet. I decided I couldn’t bear going to Midnight Mass. I didn’t want to sit through the service crying my eyes out (I’m actually a private person when it comes to shedding tears). However, I had to stay awake for my host’s annual Christmas Eve party. So, I sent everyone off to church in the building next door, and I lay down on the couch to take a nap. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. My legs were cramping and twitching so badly that I curled up in a fetal position for relief. I turned on the television to find the usual assortment of sentimental Christmas movies, political talk shows, the shopping channel (in French), and a rerun of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (English with French subtitles).
I lay there feeling sorry for myself, recalling Christmas Eves past. I thought about all those Christmas pageants, open houses, and midnight masses. I thought about my long kilt – the one my mom made for me when I was 14, and I still wear to this day (thanks to a few alterations). I thought about our Christmas tree adorned with my grandmother’s hand-embroidered ornaments. I thought about honey baked ham and cheese sandwiches. I thought about standing in the pulpit and sharing my Christmas sermon. I thought about that special moment when all the lights were out, the candles lit, and the congregation sang “Silent Night.” It was simply too much. I started to sob - deep and profound tears of grief that had been building up over the last year. It was the pity party of my lifetime.
After pulling myself together, I got up and decided to sneak into the cathedral for the end of the service, but then realized I didn’t have the key to the deanery. So instead, I walked out on the terrace. The night was warm and clear. It was midnight. I could hear the sound of “Silent Night” and see the flickering of candles through the stained glass windows. Standing there, all alone, in the dark, I said my prayers and prayed that Christ be born anew in me and the rest of the world. Suddenly, I heard voices and the opening of a door. Worship had ended and the celebration had begun.
Grief is a funny thing. It comes and goes, like the waves, the moon, and the seasons. As I prepare for my next round of preaching and teaching, I’m glad the holidays are over. Back in Cleveland, the days are getting longer and another chapter of the journey begins. - Tracey
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